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JFD. 



LIFK 



3<') 



|>1 



WILLIAM BLAKE 



WITH SELECTIONS FROM HIS POEMS AND OTHER WRITINGS 



ISY 



ALEXANDER GILCHRIST 

I 

OK THE MIDDLE TEMPLE, BARRISTER-AT-LAW 
AUTHOR OF "THE LIFE OF WILLIAM ETTV', R.A." 



A NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION 

ILLUSTRATED FROM BLAKE'S OWN WORKS 

WITH ADDI'lluNAL Lt ITERS AND A MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR 



IN TWO VOLUMES 
VOL. 1 



ITonbon 
M A C M I L L A N A NU) C O. 

1880 



The Sigh: 0/ Ttanilaiion it Rt-serxff 

m 

r 



THE KEW TORiC 

. PUBLIC LIBRAftT 

95;JfJ8iU 

ASrOE. LENOX AND 

nuMSH pur I - 






• • • • • • 

••• ••• •••, 

*• •••• •• 

* • • • • •' 

• • - • • a * 
••••• ••• 

• • • • • • • 






• « 



•. • • •• • 

• • * t • 
» • * • • 



• •• 



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION. 



In 1878 thirty-four autograph letters from William 
Blake to Hayley were sold by Messrs. Sotheby 
and Wilkinson. Thanks to the courtesy of the 
gentlemen into whose possession a large proportion 
of the letters ultimately passed, — Mr. Frederick 
Locker and Mr. Alexander Macmillan, — these, and 
a few more obtained from the same source (one by 
the British Museum and the others by Mr. Kirby), 
are now incorporated in the Biography, and carry 
on the narrative of Blake's life during the two 
years immediately succeeding his return from Felp- 
ham. In the same way the letters to Mr. Butts, 
generously placed in my hands by his grandson, 
Captain Butts, just before the appearance of the 
first edition, and there printed in Vol. II., are now 
put in their place, making the Felpham chapters 
mainly autobiographical. 



vi PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION. 

The two friends whose labour of love wrought so 
largely to give completeness to the first issue of this 
book have revised and, especially in the case of the 
Annotated Catalogue, brought up to date their work ; 
whilst another friend, Mr. Frederic J. Shields, out 
of the same warmth of admiration for Blake's genius 
and character, has freely rendered precious service 
with pen and pencil further to enrich the new edition. 
He has supplied a vigorous translation into words 
of the more pregnant among the large and important 
series of Designs by Blake to Young s Night T/wughts, 
which has lately come to light, and is now in the pos- 
session of Mr. Bain, of the Hay market — the series 
of which a very small portion only was engraved by 
Blake for Edwards's edition of 1797. Mr. Shields 
has also drawn, from original pencil sketches by 
Blake, two new portraits of Mrs. Blake and the head 
of Blake by himself, which was somewhat roughly 
given in the first edition. Lastly, he has adapted a 
fairy design of Blake's own to the cover. 

From America has come help in the shape of some 
admirable examples of engraver's work, four of which 
are from designs by Blake never before repro- 
duced, and two are from the Grave. These were 
executed to illustrate an article on Blake, by Mr. 
Horace Scudder, in Scridner s Magazine, ]\in^, 1880; 
and to the courtesy of Messrs. Scribner & Co., of 



PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION. Vli 

New York, we are indebted for the use of the 
blocks. 

Of additional illustrations there remain to be 
specified a newly discovered design to Hamlet (from 
a copy of the Second Folio Shalcespeare containing 
also several other designs by Blake, and now in 
possession of Mr. Macmillan) ; another plate from the 
yerusalem ; the Phillips portrait of Blake, which 
Schiavonetti engraved for Blair's Grave; a view of 
Blake^s Cottage at Felpham and of his Work Room 
and Death Room in Fountain Court, both drawn 
by Herbert H. Gilchrist ; and, last not least, the 
Inventions to the Book of Job executed anew by the 
recently discovered photo-intaglio process. 

In Vol. II. will also now be found an Essay on 
Blake, by James Smetham, republished (by per- 
mission) from the London Quarterly Review. Its 
fine qualities and its inaccessibility will, I feel assured, 
make it welcome here as an important accession to 
a work which aims to gather to a focus all the light 
that can be shed on Blake and on the creations of 
his genius. 

Anne Gilchrist. 



Keats Corner, Well Road, Hampstead, 

Oct, lo, 1880. 



PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION. 



One short word of sorrowful significance which 
has had to be inserted in the title-pagie, while it 
acquaints the reader with the peculiar circumstances 
under which this Biography conies before him, seems 
also to require a few words about its final prepara- 
tion for the press ; the more so as the time which 
has elapsed since the Life of Blake Was first an- 
nounced might otherwise lead tO a wrong inference 
respecting the state in which it was left by the be- 
loved author when he was seized, in the full tide of 
health and work and happy life, with the fever which, 
in five days, carried him hence. The Life was then 
substantially complete ; and the first eight chapters 
were already printed. The main services, therefore, 
which the Work has received from other hands — and 
great they are — appear in the Second Part and in the 
Appendix : in the choice and arrangement of a large 
collection of Blake's unpublished and hitherto almost 
equally inaccessible published Writings, together with 



X PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION. 

introductory remarks to each Section; and in a 
thorough and probably exhaustive Annotated Cata- 
logue of his Pictorial Works. The first of these 
services — the editorship, in a word, of the Selections 
— has been performed by Mr. Dante Gabriel Rossetti ; 
the second by his brother, Mr. William Rossetti. To 
both of these friends, admiration of Blake* s genius 
and regard for the memory of his biographer have 
made their labour so truly a labour of love that they 
do ^ not suffer me to dwell on the rare quality or 
extent of the obligation. 

To the Life itself one addition has been made, 
— that of a Supplementary Chapter, in fulfilment of 
the Authors plan. He left a memorandum to the 
effect that he intended writing such a chapter, and 
a list of the topics to be handled there, but nothing 
more. This also Mr. D. G. Rossetti has carried 
into execution; and that the same hand has filled 

« 

in some blank pages in the Chapter on the Inven- 
tions to the Book of Job the discerning reader will 
scarcely need to be told. 

The only other insertions remaining to be particu- 
larized are the accounts of such of Blake's Writings 
as it was decided not to reprint in the Second Part ; 
chiefly of the class he called Prophecies. I could 
heartily wish the difficult problem presented by these 




PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION. xi 

Strange Books had been more successfully grappled 
with, or indeed grappled with at alL Hardly any- 
thing has been now attempted beyond bringing 
together a few readable extracts. But however 
small may be the literary value of the Europe^ 
America^ yerusalem^ &c., they are at least psycho- 
logically curious and important ; and should the 

opportunity arise, I hope to see these gaps filled in 
with workmanship which shall better correspond with 
that of the rest of the fabric. In speaking of the 
Designs which accompany the Poems in question, 
I was not left wholly without valued aid. 

To Mr. Samuel Palmer and Mr. William Haines, 
Mr. Linnell and other of Blake's surviving friends, 
and to the possessors of his works, grateful acknow- 
ledgments of the services rendered are due, in various 
ways, by each and all to enhance the completeness 
of the following record of the fruitful life and la- 
bours of William Blake. In my dear husband's name, 
therefore, I sincerely thank these gentlemen. 

Anne Gilchrist. 




May 15M, 1863, 
Brookbank, near Haslemere. 



k 



CONTENTS OF VOLUME I. 
BIOGRAPHY. 

CHAPTER I. 

PAGF 

Preliminary t 

CHAPTER II. 
Childhood 5 

CHAPTER III. 
Engraver's Apprentice 12 

CHAPTER IV. 
A Boy's Poems 23 

CHAPTER V. 
Student and Lover 28 



XIV CONTENTS. 



CHAFrE*. VI. 

Introduction to mc ToLirc Wo&ld . . 43 



CHAFTtK Vi: 
Struggle and Sorrow 51 



CHAPTER VllL 
MiDiTATioN : Notes on Lava fee 61 



CHAPTER IX. 
Poems ok Manhood: Songs of Innocence 6S 



CHAPTER X. 
Books of Prophecy : Thel, Marriage of Heaven and Hell . . 76 



CHAPTER XI. 
Bookseller Johnson's 89 



CHAPTER XII. 
The Gates of Paradise, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, 
The 'America' 9S 



CHAPTER XIII. 
The Songs of Experience 116 



CHAPTER XIV. 
rMoinHmvE Years: Europe, Urizen, The Song of Los, Ahania 124 




CONTENTS. XV 



CHAPTER XV. 

PACB 

At Work for the Publishers i34 



CHAPTER XVI. 
A New Life 142 



CHAPTER XVII. 
Poet Hayley and Felpham 156 



# 



CHAPTER XVIII. 
Working Hours: Letters to Butts 165 



CftAPTER XIX. 
Trial for Sedition 190 



CHAPTER XX. 
South Molton Street: Letters to Hayley ........ 201 



CHAPTER XXI. 
The Jerusalem and the Milton 226 



CHAPTER XXIL 
A Keen Employer 246 



CHAPTER XXIII. 
Gleams of Patronage 256 



k 



XVI CONTENTfv 



CHAPTER XXIV. 
The Desigxs to Blair a^r 



CHAPTER XXY. 
ArrtAL TO THE Public 27; 



> 



CHAPTER XXVI. 
Engraver Cromek . . .... 283 



CHAPTER XXVH. 
Years op Deepening Neglect 291 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 
John Varley and the Visionary Heads 29S 



CHAPTER XXIX. 
Opinions: Notes on Reynolds 305 



CHAPTER XXX. 
Designs to Phillips's Pastorai.s 317 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

Kovntain CorRT 321 



CHAPTER XXXir. 
iNVirNi'ioNN ro the Book ok Job 327 



r" 




CONTENTS. XVII 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 

HaMI*STEAD ; AND YOUTHFUL DiSCIPLES ^ 337 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 
Personal Details 348 



CHAPTER XXXV. 
Mad or not Mad 362 



CHAPTER XXXVI. 
Declining Health; Designs to Dante; Mr. Crabb Robinson's 
Reminiscences ; Notes on Wordsworth 375 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 
Last Days 403 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

Posthumous 407 



CHAPTFK XXXIX. 
Supplementary 413 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 



/ 



VOLUME I. 



Portrait of Blake, from a 
miniature painted in 1827 • • 

From America 

From Illustrations of tht Book of 
Job 

Glad Day. Block lent by Messrs. 
Scribner & Co 

Plague. From a Water-colour 
Drawing 

Infant Joy. Yvom Songs of In- 
nocence, Block lent by Messrs. 
Scribner & Co 

Nebuchadnezzar. From Pen- 
cil-Drawing in Rossetli's MS. 
Note-book 

Illustration for Wollstone- 
CRAFt's Tales for Children, 
From the original Drawing . , 

From Visions of the Daughters of 
Albion ..,.•... 

Gates of Paradise. Eight Plates. 
Facsimiles 

From America 

From Europe 

Elijah in the Chariot of 
Fire. From a Colour- printed 
Design. (See Vol. II., p. 209. 
No. 23. ) Block lent by Messrs. 
Scribner & Co 

VOL I. 



Dkawn by Engraved by Pacb 

John LinneU C. H.Jeens Frontispiece 



Blake 

Blake 
Blake 
Blake 



Blake 

Blake 

Blake 

Blake 
Blake 
Blake 



W. J, Linton Title-page to 

Biography 

W. J. Linton i 



W. J. Linton 



Blake J. F. Jungling 



W. J. Linton 



W, J. Linlon 



29 



54 



68 



88 



90 



W. J. Linton 97, 103 

W. J. Linton 98, 100, 102 
W. J. Linton 108, no 
W. J. Linton 124, 126 



Blake 



128 



\x 



l.I>T OF ILLCSTRATIOSS. 



IiH!i;i-ink I'rawri^. M -«-»> lc5 ' 
liy Me^-if'. >».rili'.«rr aii>l « --. 

•'Ai:K lil \I» \MIKN IHfi -AN 
UMi iin. ti> \'. t." It ::i the 
M^. N..U' Uiuk. >ce V.,I. II . 

li'iii /V !•■'/» ■■/;■;* /'i;if^-..'."»: «7' 
.///■li'W . 



I>aAWS tV 



BLike 



E9«BATMD SV 



!:liLc 



r.j.AKi*. ( lUiAiiLAi l-tLriiAM. \ llcrUrt H. 
riii,|.>-Iiii.H;li ' Ciilchrist- 



I r-Mil tin- MS. NiilC-l«t»k . 

\ Ai \ lIvi.E, Skoi tu>. I'r.im | 

■/••/■«. il/fV/l ) 

I'.'M'lrr from y^rusait'tti . . • 



i( 



t( 



tt 



ti 



ti 



f I 



f > 



It 



'\\.'. %iu\ Hfail pieces from ytm- 



inlifn 



\ ■*— .orr. r,f I'a^jc-* from the same . 

: '-".I i1/i7/<7«.— IJLAKE'sCorTACE 
) \ i «.I.I MAM 

; ••■:m . Took. From Ulair's 
ffTi't. iJliKjk lent by Messrs. 
-. •'. Titr i Co 

'. ■ •*-l:.:.of, King, Warrior, 
'C. ;>:Lr AND Child in the 
'.' \ '' . \ rom the same. l>l)ck 
\*i'. '. \\- Mt,5r«i. Scribner & Co. 

.' '-.■ .'''':)ZZi Humid. From Water- 

',-•' rj Y Heads. From Pencil 
— .•-■' •'•^- ■ . 

: "c '^t ?ime. — The Man who 

i LI "HE lYkAMlDS, r.D- 
W .. I I' I . , W ■ LL 1 a M W ALL.\C E, 

L: V.U.1' III 



',-r:j;T or a Fle.\ 



T=:e A:rT->tK> of Theft, 

AlTLTEl.Y. MlRDER . . . 

I*e-.i^ni •:■ rhi*h'p>'s P^uUvwh^ 
Wo.xi-bKicks . . 



bUle 

BUkc 

BUke 
Blake 
BUke 
BUke 
Blake 

BUke 
Blake 

Blake 
Blake 



Blake 
Blake 
Blake 



J. HdUweU 



PftGB 



IS4 



W. J. Linton 



BUkc W. J. Unton 



141 



155 



Tyitognpiuc 
Etching Co. 

W. J. Unton 

i Typogimphic 
\ KtchingCo. 

W. J. Linton 

\V. J. Unton 

W. J. Unton 

W.J.Union 

W.J. Unton 

W. J. Unton 
W. J. Unton 

W. J. Unton 



\ 



} 230 
232. 233, 334 



{ 



236 

240 
27. 50f 5»» 

239. 240 
245 



269 



J. D. Cooper 
W. J. Linton 



270 



272 



Blake 


W. J. Linton 


300 


Blake 


W. J. Linton 

* 


303 


Blake 


W. J. Linton 


304 


BLike 


BUkc 


320 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 

Drawn by Engraved by 

Plan of Blake's Room in 
Fountain Court .... F. J. Shields 

Behemoth and Leviathan. 

From the IliustraHons to Job . Blake W. J. Linton 

Blake's Work - room and i Herbert H. C Typ<:^phic ) 

Death-room ( Gilchrist c Etching Co. / 

r 

Catherine Blake. From a ) » T«««««ir^i.;^ \ 

Pencil-Drawing by her Husband. > F. J. Shields j iW|^?r^ ( 

(Photo-Intaglio) S < ^^^"« ^^- ' 

Catherine andWilliam Blake. ) , t«»^/x.«^ i,- \ 

From Pencil-outline in MS. \ F. J. Shields | i.yP^Pn»c J 

Note-book. (Photo-Intaglio) . ) * ^^^^ ^''' * 

The Circle of the Traitors. 

From Dante Blake W. J. Lmton 

Mr. Cumberland's Card-plate. Blake W.J.Linton 

From Design for Blair's Grave . Blake W. J. Linton 

Mrs. Blake in Age .... Tatham. W. J. Linton 



XXI 



Page 
322 

348 
361 

374 

377 

399 
406 

412 



VOLUME II. 

Drawn by Encraybd by Pace 

Portrait of Blake. By T. \ 

Phillips, R. A., Etched by Schia- f J Typographic ( rv--,y,v^- ^ 

vonetti for Blair's Grave, Photo- ( | Etching Co. { ^ronttspucc 

Intaglio ) 

Design from Visions of the Daugh- Title-page to 

ters of Albion Blake W.J.Linton Selections, 

Canterbury Pilgrimage (re- 
duced). The Heads under it 
are Facsimiles Blake W. J. Linton 144 

Illustrations of the Book \ ^q, -,--_,_i,;- •> 

OF Job. Twenty-one Photo- \ \v^S^r^ \ 204 

Intaglios ...... .J ^ ^^^^°g ^°- ^ 

Songs of Innocence. Seven 
of the Original Plates .... 204 

Songs of Experience. Nine 

of the Original Plates .... 204 

Tail-piece. From Vision of the 

Daughters of Albion .... 376 

The design on the cover is adapted, by Mr. Frederic J. Shields, from a rough 
sketch in Blake's MS. Note-book, for a picture which was exhibited some years ago 
at Manchester, but did not find its way to the Burlington Fine Art Club Exhibition 
of Blake's works. The angelic figure on the back of the volume is from one of 
the designs to Youug's Night Thoughts, 



William ^lake 





WILLIAM BLAKE 



CHAPTER I, 



PRELIMINARY. 




From nearly all collections or beauties 
'The English Poets,' catholic to demerit as Ak^ 
tJjese are, tender of the expired and expiring ^ — - 
reputations, one name has been hitherto perseveringly 
exiled. Encyclopaedias ignore it The Biographical Dic- 
tionaries furtively pass it on with inaccurate despatch, as 
having had some connexion with the Arts. With critics it 
has had but little better fortune. The Edinburgh Review, 
twenty-seven years ago, specified as a characteristic sin of 
' partiality ' in Allan Cunningham's pleasant Lives of British 
Artists, that he should have ventured to include this name, 
since its possessor could (it seems) 'scarcely be considered 
a painter ' at all. And later, Mr. Leslie, in his Handbook for 
Young Painters, dwells on it with imperfect sympathy for 
a while, to dismiss it with scanty recognition. 

Yet no less a contemporary than Wordsworth, a man little 
prone to lavish eulogy or attention on brother poets, spake 
in private of the Songs of Innocence and Experience of William 

VOL. I. , , B 



UFE OF WnXlAM 21AJLE. 



Biake, as ' undoubtedly the prodscticc of iaszne gcxsiss;' (which 
adjective we shall, I hope, see ca*.2se to q:alii>\ bet as to him 
more significant than the works of cany a &£iio«b poet. 
' There is something in the madness of this nias,* declared he 
(to Mr. Crabb Robinson), • which interests ex ciKve tha*^ the 
sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott.' 

Of his DesignSy Fuseli and Flaxman. men not to be imposed 
on in such matters, but themsel\'es sensxti^-e — as Original 
Genius must always be — to Original Genius in others, \reie 
in the habit of declaring with unwonted -emphasis, that ^ the 
time would come ' when the finest ' would be as much soi^it 
after and treasured in the portfolios* of men discerning in 
art, ' as those of Michael Angelo now/ • And ah ! Sir,' Flax- 
man would sometimes add, to an admirer of the designs, • his 
poems are as grand as his pictures.* 

Of the books and designs of Blake, the \k-orld may well 
be ignorant. For in an age rigorous in its requirement of 
publicity, these were in the most literal sense of the words, 
never publislied at all : not published even in the mediaeval 
sense, when writings were confided to learned keeping, and 
works of art not unseldom restricted to cloister-wall or coffer- 
lid. Blake's poems were, with one exception, not even printed 
in his life-time ; simply engraved by his own laborious hand. 
His drawings, when they issued further than his own desk, 
were bought as a kind of charity, to be stowed away again 
in rarely opened portfolios. The very copper-plates on which 
he engraved, were often used again after a few impressions 
nad been struck off; one design making way for another^ to 
save the cost of new copper. At the present moment, Blake 
drawings, Blake prints, fetch prices which would have solaced 
a life of penury, had their producer received them. They 
arc thus collected, chiefly because they are (naturally enough) 
already *KfllCG,' and '17€fil9 VMMB: Still hiding in private 
portfolios, his drawings are there prized or known by perhaps 
a score of individuals, enthusiastic appreciators, — ^some of their 
aingulnrity and rarity, a few of their intrinsic quality. 



PRELIMINARY. 3 

At the Manchester Art-Treasures Exhibition of 1857, among 
the select thousand water-colour drawings, hung two modestly 
tinted designs by Blake, of few inches in size : one the Dream 
of Queen Catherine^ another Oberon and Titania, Both are 
remarkable displays of imaginative power, and finished ex- 
amples in the artist's peculiar manner. Both were unnoticed 
in the crowd, attracting few gazers, fewer admirers. For it 
needs to be read in Blake, to have familiarized oneself with 
his unsophisticated, archaic, yet spiritual * manner/ — ^a style 
sui generis as no other artist's ever was, — to be able to 
sympathize with, or even understand, the equally individual 
strain of thought, of which it is the vehicle. And one must 
almost be bom with a sympathy for it. He neither wrote nor 
drew for the many, hardly for work*y-day men at all, rather 
for children and angels ; himself *a divine child,* whose play- 
things were sun, moon, and stars, the heavens and the earth. 

In an era of academies, associations, and combined efforts, 
we have in him a solitary, self-taught, and as an artist, semi- 
taught Dreamer, ' delivering the burning messages of prophecy 
by the stammering lips of infancy,* as Mr. Ruskin has said 
of Cimabue and Giotto. For each artist and writer has, in 
the course of his training, to approve in his own person the 
immaturity of expression Art has at recurrent periods to 
pass through as a whole. And Blake in some aspects of 
his art never emerged from infancy. His Drawing, often 
correct, almost always powerful, the pose and grouping of 
his figures often expressive and sublime as the sketches of 
RafTaelle or Albert Diirer, on the other hand, range under 
the category of the ' impossible ; ' are crude, contorted, 
forced, monstrous, though none the less efficient in convey- 
ing the visions fetched by the guileless man from Heaven, 
from Hell itself, or from the intermediate limbo tenanted 
by hybrid nightmares. His prismatic colour, abounding in 
the purest, sweetest melodies to the eye, and always ex- 
pressing a sentiment, yet looks to the casual observer slight, 
inartificial, arbitrary. 

B 2 



4 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

Many a cultivated spectator will turn away firoin all this 
as from mere ineffectualncss, — Art in its second childhood. 
But see that sitting figure of Job in his Affl'uiion^ surrounded 
b/ the bowed figures of wife and friend, grand as Michael 
Angelo, nay, rather as the still, colossal figures fashioned 
by the genius of old " Egypt or Assyria ! Look on that 
simple composition of Afigels Singing aloud for Joy, pure 
and tender as Fra Angelico, and with an austerer sweetness. 

It is not the least of Blake's peculiarities that, instead of 
expressing himself, as most men have been content to do, by 
help of the prevailing style of his day, he, in this, as m every 
other matter, preferred to be independent of his fellows; 
partly by choice, partly from the necessities of imperfect, 
education as a painter. His Design has conventions of its 
own ; in part, its own, I should say, in part, a return to 
those of earlier and simpler times. 

Of Blake as an Artist, we will defer further talk. His 
Design c^n ill be translated into words, and very inade- 
quately by any engraver's copy. Of his Poems, tinged with 
the very same ineffable qualities, obstructed by the same 
technical flaws and impediments — a semi-utterance as it 
were, snatched from the depths of the vague and unspeak- 
able — of these remarkable Poems, never once yet fairly placed 
before the reading public, specimens shall by-and-bye speak 
more intelligibly for themselves. Both form part in a Life 
and Character as new, romantic, pious — in the deepest 
natural sense — as they : romantic, though incident be slight ; 
animated by the same unbroken simplicity, the same hig^h 
unity of sentiment. 



CHAPTER II. 

CHILDHOOD. 1757—71. 

William Blake, the most spiritual of artists, a mystic 
poet and painter, who lived to be a contemporary of Cobbett 
and Sir Walter Scott, was bom 28th November, 1757, the 
year of Canova's birth, two years after Stothard and Flax- 
man ; while Chatterton, a boy of five, was still sauntering 
about the winding streets of antique Bristol. Bom amid 
the gloom of a London November, at 28, Broad Street^ 
Camaby Market, Golden Square (market now extinct), he 
was christened on the nth December— one in a batch ot 
six — from Grinling Gibbons* ornate font in Wren's noble 
Palladian church of St James's. He was the son of James 
and Catherine Blake, the second child in a family of five. 

His father was a moderately prosperous hosier of some 
twenty years' standing, in a then not unfashionable quarter. 
Broad Street, half private houses, half respectable shops, 
was a street much such as Wigmore Street is now, only 
shorter. Dashing Regent Street as yet was not, and had 
more than half a century to wait for birth ; narrow Swallow 
Street in part filling its place. All that Golden Square 
neighbourhood, — Wardour Street, Poland Street, Brewer 
Street, — held then a similar status to the Cavendish Square 
district say, now : an ex-fashionable, highly respectable con- 
dition, not yet sunk into the seedy category. The Broad 
Street of present date is a dirty, forlorn-looking thorough- 
fare ; one half of it twice as wide as the other In the wider 



O LIFE OF WIIXIAM fcUUU: [iT^S—^- 

IK>rtion stands a large, dingy h rcmny. Tbe street is a 
shabby miscellany of oddly assorted oc cupali oos, — lajM- 
darlcs, pickle-nukers, manufactaring trades of many Idnds, 
furniture-brokers, and nondescript shops. 'Artistes' and 
artizans live in the upper stories^ Almost every boose is 
adorned by its triple or quadruple rov of bnss beQs» br^;iit 
with the polish of frequent hands, and yearly multiplyiiig 
themselves. The bouses, though often disguised by stucco, 
and some of them refaced, date mostly from Queen Anne*s 
time ; 28, now a ' trimming shop,* is a comer bouse at the 
narrower end, a large and substantial old edifice. 

The mental training which followed the physical one of 
Awaddling-clothcs, go-carts, and bead-puddings, was, in our 
Poet's case, a scanty one, as we have cause to know firom 
Hlakc's writings. All knowledge beyond that of readii^r 
and writing was evidently self-acquired. A * new kind' of 
boy was soon sauntering about the quiet neighbouring streets 
—a boy of strangely more romantic habit of mind than that 
neighbourhood had ever known in its days of gentih'ty, has 
ever known in its dingy decadence. Already he passed half 
his time in dream and imaginative reverie. As he gprew 
older the lad became fond of roving out into the country, 
a fondness in keeping with the romantic turn. For what 
written romance can vie with the substantial one of rural 
u\\i\\iH and sounds to a town-bred boy ? Country was not, 
at th it day, beyond reach of a Golden Square lad of nine 
or ten. On his own legs he could find a green field with- 
out the cnhaustion of body and mind which now separates 
nuch a boy from the alluring haven as rigorously as prison 
bttm. After Westminster Bridge — the 'superb and magni- 
flcotit utructurc ' now defunct, then a new and admired one — 
CrtMic St. (JcorKC*H Fields, open fields and scene of * Wilkes 
Ahil Liberty' riots in Blake's boyhood ; next, the pretty 
vlllrt^r of Nnwington Butts, undreaming its 19th century 
lirtil t^mliiencc in the bills of cholera-mortality ; and then, 
\lUiiophlMticAte (;rccn field and hedgerow opened on the 



^T. 8-10.] CHILDHOOD. . 7 

child's delighted eyes. A mile or two further through the 
' large and pleasant village ' of Camberwell with its gfrove (or 
avenue) and famed prospect, arose the sweet hill and vale 
and ' sylvan wilds ' of rural Dulwich, a ' village ' even now 
retaining some semblance of its former self Beyond, 
stretched, to allure the young pedestrian on, • yet fairer 
amenities : southward, hilly Sydenham ; eastward, in the 
purple distance, Blackheath. A favourite day's ramble of 
later date was to Blackheath, or south-west, over Dulwich 
and Norwood hills, through the antique rustic town of 
Croydon, type once of the compact, clean, cheerful Surrey 
towns of old days, to the fertile verdant meads of Walton- 
upon-Thames; much of the way by lane and footpath. 
The beauty of those scenes in his youth was a lifelong 
reminiscence with Blake, and stored his mind with lifelong 
pastoral images. 

On Peckham Rye (by Dulwich Hill) it is, as he will in after 
years relate, that while quite a child, of eight or ten perhaps, 
he has his * first vision.' Sauntering along, the boy looks up 
and sees a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings be- 
spangling every bough like stars. Returned home he relates 
the incident, and only through his mother's intercession escapes 
a thrashing from his honest father, for telling a lie. Another 
time, one summer morn, he sees the haymakers at work, and 
amid them angelic figures walking. If these traits of childish 
years be remembered, they will help to elucidate the visits 
from the spiritual world of later years, in which the grown 
man believed as unaffectedly as ever had the boy of ten. 

One day, a traveller was telling bright wonders of some 
foreign city. * Do you call that splendid ? * broke in young 
Blake ; ' I should call a city splendid in which the houses were 
of gold, the pavement of silver, the gates ornamented with 
precious stones.' At which outburst, hearers were already 
disposed to shake the head and pronounce the speaker crazed : 
a speech natural enough in a child, but not unlikely to have 
been uttered in maturer years by Blake. 



Z LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1767—701 

To say that JNake was bom an ardst, is to say of course 
that as soon as the child's hand could hcdd a pencil it began 
to scrawl rough likeness of man or beast, and make timid 
copies of all the prints he came near. He eariy began to 
seek opportunities of educating hand and eye. In de&ult of 
National Gallery or Museum, for the newly founded British 
Museum contained as yet little or no sculpture^ occasional 
access might freely be had to the Royal Palaces. Pictures 
were to be seen also in noblemen's and gentlemen's houses, 
in the sale-rooms of the elder Langford in Covent Garden, 
and of the elder Christie : sales exclusively filled as yet iwith 
the pictures of the ' old and dark ' masters, sometimes genuine 
oftcner spurious^ demand for the same exceeding supply. 
Of all these chances of gratuitous instruction the boy is said 
to have sedulously profited : a clear proof other schooling 
was irregular. 

The fact that such attendances were permitted, implies that 
neither parent was disposed, as so often happens, to thwart 
the incipient artist s inclination ; bad, even for a small trades- 
man's son, as at that time were an artist's outlooks, unless he 
were a portrait-painter. In 1767 (three years after Hogarth's 
death), Blake being then ten years old, was ' put to Mr. Pars 
drawing-school in the Strand.' This was the preparatory 
school for juvenile artists then in vogue: preparatory to the 
Academy of Painting and Sculpture in St Martin's Lane» of 
the * Incorporated Society of Artists,' the Society Hogarth 
had helped to found. The Royal Academy of intriguing 
Chambers' and Moscr^s founding, for which George the 
Third legislated, came a year later. *Mr. Pars' drawing- 
school in the Strand' was located in 'the great room,' 
subsequently a show-room of the Messrs. Ackermann's — 
name once familiar to all buyers of prints — in their original 
house, on the left-hand side of the Strand, as you go city- 
wards, just at the eastern comer of Castle Court : a house 
and court demolished when Agar Street and King William 
Street were made. The school was founded and brought 



iBT. 10—13.] CHILDHOOD. 9 

into celebrity by William Shipley, painter, brother to a bishop, 
and virtual founder also, in 1754, of the ^till-extant Society 
of Arts, — in that same house, where the Societj' lodged until 
migrating to its stately home over the way, in the Adelphi. 

Who was Pars ? Pars, the Leigh or Cary of his day, was 
originally a chaser and son of a chaser, the art to which 
Hogarth was apprenticed, one then going out of demand, 
unhappily, — for the fact implied the loss of a decorative art. 
Which decadence it was led this Pars to go into the juvenile 
Art-Academy line, vice Shipley retired. He had a younger 
brother, William, a portrait-painter, and one of the earliest 
Associates or inchoate R. A.'s, who was extensively patronized 
by the Dilettanti Society, and by the dilettante Lord Palmerston 
of that time. The former sent him to Greece, there for three 
years to study ruined temple and mutilated statue, and to 
return with portfolios, a mine of wealth to cribbing * classic ' 
architects, — contemporary Chambers' and future Soanes. 

At Pars* school as much drawing was taught as is to be 
learned by copying plaster-casts after the Antique, but no 
drawing from the living figure. Blake's father bought a few 
casts, from which the boy could continue his drawing-lessons 
at home : the Gladiator y the Hercules^ the Venus de Medici^ 
various heads, and the usual models of hand, arm, and foot. 
After a time, small sums of money were indulgently supplied 
wherewith to make a collection of Prints for study. To 
secure these, the youth became a frequenter of the print- 
dealer's shops and the sales of the auctioneers, who then took 
threepenny biddings, and would often knock down a print for 
as many shillings as pounds are now given, thanks to ever- 
multiplying Lancashire fortunes. 

In a scarce, probably almost unread book, affecting — despite 
the unattractive literary peculiarities of its pedagogue authors 
— from its subject and very minuteness of detail, occurs an 
account, from which I have begun to borrow, of Blake's early 
education in art, derived from the artist's own lips. It is a 
more reliable story than Allan Cunningham's pleasant 



lO LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1767—70. 

mannered generalities, easy to read, hard to verify. The 
singular biography to which I allude, is Dr. Malkin's Father s 
Memoirs of his CAild (1606), illustrated by a frontispiece oi 
Blake's design. The Child in question was one of those 
hapless ' prodigies of learning * who, — to quote a good- 
natured friend and philosopher's consoling words to the poor 
Doctor, — ^'commence their career at three, become expert 
' linguists at four, profound philosophers at five, read the 
' Fathers at six, and die of old age at seven. * 

' Langford,' writes Malkin, called Blake ' his little con- 
noisseur, and often knocked down a cheap lot with friendly 
precipitation.' Amiable Langford! The great Italians, — 
Raffaelle, Michael Angelo, Giulio Romano, — the great Ger- 
mans, — Albert Diirer, Martin Hemskerk, — with others similar, 
were the exclusive objects of his choice ; a sufficiently re- 
markable one in days when Guido and the Caracci were the 
gods of the servile crowd. Such a choice was ' contemned by 
his youthful companions, who were accustomed to laugh at 
what they called his mechanical taste ! ' * I am happy,* wrote 
Blake himself in later life {MS, notes to Reynolds)^ * I cannot 
*say that Raffaelle ever was from my earliest childhood 
'hidden from me. I saw and I knew immediately the 
' difference between Raffaelle and Rubens/ 

Between the ages of eleven and twelve, if not before, Blake 
had begun to write original irregular verse ; a rarer precocity 
than that of sketching, and rarer still in alliance with the 
latter tendency. Poems composed in his twelfth year, came 
to be included in a selection privately printed in his twenty- 
sixth. Could we but know which they were! One, by 
Malkin's help, we can identify as written before he was 
fourteen : the following ethereal piece of sportive Fancy, 
* Song ' he calls it ; — 

How sweet I roam'd from field to field. 

And tasted all the summer's pride, 
Till I the prince of Love beheld, 

Who in the sunny beams did glide ! 



MT. 10—13.] CHILDHOOD. 1 1 

He shew*d me lilies for my hair, 

And blushing roses for my brow ; 
He led me through his gardens fair, 

Where all his golden pleasures grow. 

With sweet May-dews my wings were wet. 

And Phoebus fir'd my vocal rage; 
He caught me in his silken net. 

And shut me in his golden cage. 

He loves to sit and hear me sing, 
Then, laughing, sports and plays with me; 

Then jstretches out my golden wing. 
And mocks my loss of liberty. 

This may surely be reckoned equal precocity to that so 
much lauded of Pope and Cowley. It is not promise, but ful- 
filment. The grown man in vain might hope to better such 
sweet playfulness, — playfulness as of a ' child-angel's ' pen- 
ning — any more than noon can reproduce the tender streaks 
of dawn. But criticism is idle. How analyse a violefs 
perfume, or dissect the bloom on a butterfly's wing ? 



CHAPTER III. 

ENGRAVER'S APPRENTICE, 1771—78. [.ct. 14—21.] 

The preliminary charges of launching Blake in the career of 
a Painter, were too onerous for the paternal pocket ; involving 
for one thing, a heavy premium to some leading artist for 
instruction under his own roof, then the only attainable^ 
always the only adequate training. The investment, more- 
over, would not after all be certain of assuring daily bread for 
the future. English engravers were then taking that high 
place they are now doing little to maintain. Apprenticeship 
to one would secure, with some degree of artistic education, 
the cunning right hand which can always keep want at arm's 
length : a thing artist and litterateur have often had cause to 
envy in the skilled artizan. The consideration was not with- 
out weight in the eyes of an honest shopkeeper, to whose 
understanding the prosaic craft would more practically 
address itself than the vague abstractions of Art, or those 
shadowy promises of Fame, on which alone a mere artist had 
too often to feed. Thus it was decided for the future de- 
signer, that he should enter the, to him, enchanted domain ot 
Art by a back door, as it ^ere He is not to be dandled into a 
Painter, but painfully to win his way to an outside places 
Daily through life, he will have to marry his shining dreams to 
the humblest, most irksome realities of a virtually artizan life. 
Alrcady it had been decreed that an inspired Poet should be 
endowed with barely grammar enough to compose with 
schoolboy accuracy. 



yRT, 14.] ENGRAVER'S APPRENTICE. 1 3 

At the age of fourteen, the drawing-school of Mr. Para in 
the Strand, was exchanged for the shop of engraver Basire, in 
Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields. There had been 
an intention of apprenticing Blake to Ryland, a more famous 
man than Basire ; an artist of genuine talent and even genius, 
who had been well educated in his craft ; had been a pupil 
of Ravenet, and after that (among others) of Boucher, whose 
stipple manner he was the first to introduce into England. 
With the view of securing the teaching and example of so 
skilled a hand, Blake was taken by his father to Ryland; 
but the negotiation failed. The boy himself raised an un- 
expected scruple. The sequel shows it to have been a singular 
instance — if not of absolute prophetic gift or second sight 
— at all events of natural intuition into character and 
power of forecasting the future from it, such as is often 
the endowment of temperaments like his. In after life 
this involuntary faculty of reading hidden writing continued 
to be a characteristic. * Father,' said the strange boy, after 
the two had left Ryland's studio, * I do not like the man's 
face : // looks as if he will live to be /tanged T Appearances 
were at that time utterly against the probability of such an 
event. Ryland was then at the zenith of his reputation. 
He was engraver to the king, whose portrait (after Ramsay) 
he had engraved, receiving for his work an annual pension 
of 200/. An accomplished and agreeable man, he was the 
friend of poet Churchill and others of distinguished rank 
in letters and society. His manners and personal appear- 
ance were peculiarly prepossessing, winning the spontaneous 
confidence of those who knew or even casually saw him. 
But twelve years after this interview, the unfortunate artist 
will have got into embarrassments, will commit a forgery 
on the East India Company: — and the prophecy will be 
fulfilled. 

The Basire with whom ultimately Blake was placed, was 
James Basire, the second chronologically and in merit first 
of four Basires ; all engravers, and the three last in date 



14 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. r«77i— "a. 

(all bearing one Christian name) engravers to the Society 
of Antiquaries. This Basire, born in London, 1730, now 
therefore forty-one, and son of Isaac Basire, had studied 
design at Rome. He was the engraver of Stuart and 
Revett's Athens (1762), of Re>Tiolds's Earl Camdem {1766), 
of West's Pylades and Orestes (1770). He had also executed 
two or three plates after some of the minor and later designs 
of Hogarth : — the frontispiece to Garrick's Farmet^s Return 
(1761), the noted political caricature of The Times^ and the 
portrait sketch of Fielding (1762), which Hogarth himself 
much commended, declaring 'he did not know his own 
drawing from a proof of the plate.* The subjects of his 
graver were principally antiquities and portraits of men of 
note, — especially portraits of antiquaries : hereditary subjects 
since with the Basire family. He Vk^s official engraver to the 
Royal as well as the Antiquarian Society. Hereafter he will 
become still more favourably known in his generation as the 
engraver of the illustrations to the slow-revoK^ng ArcboN^ogia 
and Vetusta Monwnenta of the Societ>' of Antiquaries, — 
then in a comparatively brisk condition, — and to the works ot 
Gough and other antiquarian big-wigs of the old, full-bottomed 
sort. He was an engraver well grounded in drawing, of dry, 
hard, monotonous, but painstaking, conscientious style ; the 
lingering representative of a school already getting old- 
fashioned, but not without staunch admirers, for its ' finn 
and correct outline,' among antiquaries; whose confidence and 
esteem, — Cough's in particular, — Basire throughout possessed. 
In the days of Strange, Woollett, Vivares, Bartoloszi, 
better models, if more expensive in their demands, mi^t 
have been found ; though also worse. Basire was a superior, 
liberal-minded man, ingenuous and upright ; and a Idnd 
master. The lineaments of his honest countenance (set 
off by a bob-wig) may be studied in the portrait by his son, 
engraved as frontispiece to the ninth volume of Nichols's 
Literary Anecdotes. As a Designer, Blake was, in essentials* 
influenced by no contemporary ; as engraver alone influenced 



i€T. 14.] ENGRAVER'S APPRENTICE. 1 5 

by Basire, and that strongly — little as his master's style had in 
common with his own genius. Even as engraver, he was thus 
influenced, little to his future advantage in winning custom 
from the public That public, in Blake's youth fast out- 
growing the flat and formal manner inherited by Basire, 
in common with Vertue (engraver to the Society of Anti- 
quaries before him) and the rest, from the Vanderguchts, 
Vanderbanks and other naturalized Dutchmen and Germans 
of the bob-wig and clipped-yew era, will now readily learn 
to enjoy the softer, more agreeable one of M'Ardell, Barto- 
lozzi, Sherwin. 

His seven years apprenticeship commenced in I77i,year of 
the Academy's first partial lodgement in Old Somerset Palace 
— and thus (eventually) in the National Pocket. As he was 
constitutionally painstaking and industrious, he soon learned 
to draw carefully and copy faithfully whatever was set before 
him, altogether to the Basire taste, and to win, as a good 
apprentice should, the approval and favour of his master. 
One day, by the way (as Blake ever remembered). Gold- 
smith walked into Basire's. It must have been during the 
very last years of the poet's life : he died in 1774. The boy 
— as afterwards the artist was fond of telling — mightily 
admired the great author's finely marked head as he gazed up 
at it, and thought to himself how much A^ should like to have 
such a head when he grew to be a man. Another still more 
memorable figure, a genius singularly german to Blake's own 
order of mind, the 'singular boy of fourteen,' may during the 
commencement of his apprenticeship, 'any day have met 

* unwittingly in London streets, or walked beside, — a placid, 

* venerable, thin man of eighty-four, of erect figure and 
' abstracted air, wearing a full-bottomed wig, a pair of long 
' ruffles, and a curious-hilted sword, and carrying a gold- 
' headed cane, — no Vision, still flesh and blood, but himself 
' the greatest of modem Vision Seers, — Emanuel Sweden- 
' borg by name ; who came from Amsterdam to London, in 
'August 1 77 1, and died at No. 26, Great Bath Street, 



1 6 UFF OF w:l:iav elakf. Ci77>— 74. 

'Coldbath Fields, an the .rxh :.f Much. 1772/ This 
Mr. AUingham pleasantly ^uggersts. in a aoce to his delight* 
ful collection of Ix-ricad ix!iesD& .Y^rsi^sC** VsUgr (i860), 
in which (at last) occur a specinjcn or r«v> of Blake's verse. 
The coincidence is not a tii^-ial one. Of all modem men 
the engraver's apprentice n-as to gT>3w up the likest to 
Emanuel Swedenborg; already by constitutional tempera- 
ment and endowment ^-as so. in £icu2ty for theosophic 
dreaming, for the seeing of visions vhUe broad avmke. and 
in matter of fact hold of spintual things. To satyamt and 
to artist alike, while yet on eArth. the Heavens were opened. 
By Swedenborg's theologic writings^ the tirst Ei^^lidi editions 
of some of which appeared during Blake s manhood* he was 
considerably influenced ; but in no slavish ^irit These 
writings, in common with tliose of Jacob Bodmien and of 
the other select m>^tics of the uxuid« had natural affinities 
to Blake's mind and were eagerly assimilated But he 
hardly became a proselyte or • Swedenborgian ' proper ; 
though his friend Flaxman did. In another twenty years 
we shall find him freely and — as true believers may think — 
herctically criticising the Swedish seer from the spiritualist, 
not the rationalist point of \icw : as being a Dixnne Teacher, 
whose truths however were • not new/ and whose fiedsehoods 
were ' all old/ 

Among the leading engravings turned out by Basire^ during 
the early part of Blake's apprenticeship, may be instanced in 
1772, one after B. Wilson (nof Richard). Lady Siatth^ as iki 
Fair Penitent, (her rble in certain amateur theatricals by the 
Quality); and in 1774, The Field of the Clotk of Gold amd 
Interview of the two Kings, after a copy for the Society of 
Antiquaries by * little Edwards ' of Anecdote fame, from the 
celebrated picture at Windsor. The latter print was cele- 
brated for one thing, if no other, as the largest ever engraved 
up to that time on one plate — copper, let us remember, — 
being some 47 inches by 27 ; and paper had to be made on 
purpose for it. 



MT. 14—16.] engraver's apprentice. 17 

* Two years passed over smoothly enough/ writes Malkin, 
' till two other apprentices were added to the establishment, 
who completely destroyed its harmony.' Basire said of 
Blake, 'As was too simple and they too cunning.' He, 
lending, I suppose, a too credulous ear to their tales, ' declined 
to take part with his master against his fellow-apprentices ; ' 
and was therefore sent out of harm's way into Westminster 
Abbey and the various old churches in and near London, to 
make drawings from the monuments and buildings Basire 
was employed by Gough the antiquary to engrave : ' a cir- 
cumstance he always mentioned with gratitude to Basire.' 
The solitary study of authentic English history in stone 
was far more to the studious lad's mind than the disorderly 
wrangling of mutinous comrades. It is significant of his 
character, even at this early date, for zeal, industry, and 
moral correctness, that he could be trusted month after 
month, year after year, unwatched, to do his duty by his 
master in so independent an employment. 

The task was singularly adapted to foster the romantic 
turn of his imagination, and to strengthen his natural 
affinities for the spiritual in art. It kindled a fervent love of 
Gothic, — itself an originality then,^-which lasted his life, 
and exerted enduring influences on his habits of feeling and 
study ; forbidding once for all, if such a thing had ever 
been possible to Blake, the pursuit of fashionable models, 
modem excellences, technic and superficial, or of any 
but the antiquated essentials and symbolic language ol 
imaginative art. 

From this time forward, from 1773 that is, the then 
'neglected works of art called Gothic monuments,' were 
for years his daily companions. The warmer months were 
devoted to zealous sketching, from every point of view, of 
the Tombs in the Abbey ; the enthusiastic artist ' frequently 
standing on the monument and viewing the figures from 
the top.' Careful drawings were made of the regal foriAs 
which for four or five centuries had lain in mute majesty, — 

VOL. I. C 



1 8 LIFE OF WILUAM BLAKE. (1773—78. 

once amid the daily presence of reverent priest and 
muttered mass, since in ax^-ful solitude, — around the lovely 
Chapel of the Confessor: the austere sweetness of Queen 
Eleanor, the dignity of Philippa, the noble grandeur of 
Edward the Third, the gracious stateliness of Richard the 
Second and his Queen. Then came drawings of the glorious 
effigy of Aymer de Valence, and of the beautiful though 
mutilated figures which surround his altar-tomb; drawings, 
in fact, of all the mediaeval tombs. He pored over all 
with a reverent good faith, which in the age of Stuart and 
Revett, taught the simple student things our Pugins and 
Scotts had to learn near a century later. ' The heads he 
considered as portraits/ — not unnaturally, their sculptors 
showing no overt sign of idiocy; — 'and all the ornaments 
appeared as miracles of art to his gothicized ims^^ation^' 
as they have appeared to other imaginations since. He 
discovered for himself then or later, the important part 
once subserved by Colour in the sculptured buildings, the 
living help it had rendered to the once radiant Temple of 
God, — now a bleached dishonoured skeleton. 

Shut up alone with these solemn memorials of far off 
centuries, — for, during service and in the intervals of visits 
from strangers, the vergers turned the key on him, — the 
Spirit of the past became his familiar companion. Some- 
times his dreaming eye saw more palpable shapes from the 
phantom past : once a vision of ' Christ and the Apostles»' 
as he used to tell ; and I doubt not others. For, as we 
have seen, the visionary tendency, or faculty, as Blake more 
truly called it, had early shown itself. 

During the progress of Blake's lonely labours in the 
Abbey, on a bright day in May, 1774, the Society for 
which, through Basire, he was working, perpetrated by 
royal permission, on the very scene of those rapt studies, a 
highly interesting bit of antiquarian sacrilege : on a mote 
reasonable pretext, and with greater decency, than some- 
times distinguish such questionable proceedings. A select 



JET. 16-21.] engraver's apprentice. 19 

company formally and in strict privacy opened the tomb 
of Edward the First, and found the embalmed body ' in 
perfect preservation and sumptuously attired,' in 'robes of 
royalty, his crown on his head, and two sceptres in his hands.' 
The antiquaries saw face to face the 'dead conqueror of 
Scotland ; ' had even a fleeting glimpse — for it was straight- 
way re-inclosed in its cere-cloths — of his very visage : a 
recognisable likeness of what it must have been in life. I 
cannot help hoping that Blake may (unseen) have assisted 
at the ceremony. 

In winter the youth helped to engrave selections from 
these Abbey Studies, in some cases executing the engraving 
single-handed. During the evenings and at over hours, he 
made drawings from his already teeming Fancy, and from 
English History. 'A great number,' it is said, were thrown 
off in such spare hours. There is a scarce engraving of his, 
dated so early as 1773, the second year of his apprenticeship, 
remarkable as already to some extent evincing in style — as 
yet, however, heavy rather than majestic — still more in choice 
of subject, the characteristics of later years. In one corner 
at top we have the inscription (which sufficiently describes 
the design), 'Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of 
Albion;* and at bottom, 'engraved by W. Blake, 1773, 
from an old Italian drawing;* 'Michael Angelo, Pinxit.' 
Between these two lines, according to a custom frequent 
with Blake, is engraved the following characteristic effusion, 
which reads like an addition of later years : — ' This * (he is 
venturing a wild theory as to Joseph) ' is One of the Gothic 
'Artists who built the Cathedrals in what we call the Dark 
* Ages, wandering about in sheepskins and goatskins ; of 
' whom the World was not worthy. Such were the Christians 
*in all ages.* 

The 'prentice work as assistant to Basire of these years 
(1773-78) may be traced under Basire*s name in the Archceo- 
logia, in some of the engravings of coins, &c., to the Memoirs 
of Mollis (1780), and in Cough's Sepulchral Monuments, not 

C 2 



20 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1773 

published till 1786 and 1796. The Antiquaries were . 
and stirring then; and enthusiastic John Carter was la 
the foundations in English Archccology on which be 
known men have since built In the Sepulchral Monum 
vol. I, //. 2 (1796), occurs a capital engraving as to dra' 
and feeling, ' Portrait of Queen Philippa from her Monum 
with the inscription Basire delineavit et sculpsit ; for whic! 
in many other cases, we may safely read ' W. Blake.' In 
Stothard often used to mention this drawing as Blake's, 
with praise. The engraving is in Blake's forcible ma 
of decisively contrasted light and shade, but simple 
monotonous manipulation. It is to a large scale, and | 
the head and shoulders merely. Another plate, wil 
perspective view of the whole monument and a sep; 
one of the effigy, accompanies it. In Part I. (1786) 
similar ' Portraits ' of Queen Philippa, of Edward III. fi 
From Basire, Blake could only acquire the mechanical 
of Art, even of the engraver's art ; for Basire had 
more to communicate. But that part he learned thoroi 
and well. Basire's acquirements as an engraver were 
solid though not a fascinating kind. The scholar al 
retained a loyal feeling towards his old master ; and v 
stoutly defend him and his style against that of 
attractive and famous hands, — Strange, Woollett, Barto 
Their ascendency, indeed, led to no little public inji 
being done throughout, to Blake's own sterling sty 
engraving : a circumstance which intensified the a: 
aversion to the men. In a MS. descriptive Advertist 
(1810) printed in Vol. II. with the title Public Ad 
relating to the engraving of his own Canterbury PUgri, 
Blake expresses his contempt for them very candidly- 
intcmperately perhaps. There too, he records the imprt 
made on him pen lally, hen as a boy he used to see 
of them in , ' Woollett,' he writes, ' I 

' very inti BiW i » i *>«r ^Mj^^ K^sire. artd 



'hi 



|^_ 



XT. I4-M.J engraver's apprentice. 21 

' A machine is not a man, nor a work of art : it is destructive 
' of humanity and of art. WooUett, I know, did not know 
' how to grind^is graver, / irtow this. He has often proved 
'his ignorance before me at Basire's by laughing at Basire's 
' knife-tools, and ridiculing the forms of Basire's other gravers, 
'till Bastre was quite dashed and out of conceit with what 
' he himself knew. But his impudence had a contrary effect 
' on me.' — West, for whose reputation Woollett's graver did 
so much, 'asserted' continues Blake, 'that Woollett's prints 
' were superior to Basire's, because they had more labour and 
' care. Now this is contrary to the truth. Woollett did not 
' know how to put so much labour into a hand or a foot as 
' Basire did ; he did not know how to draw the leaf of a tree. 
' All his study was clean strokes and mossy tints. . . . Wool- 
' lett's best works were etched by Jack Brown ; Woollett 
' etched very ill himself. The Cottagers, and Jocund Peasants, 
' the Views in Kew Gardens, Fool's Cray, and Diana and 
' Actaon, and, in short, all that are called Woollett's were 
' etched by Jack Brown. And in Woollett's works the 
' etching is all ; though even in these a single leaf of a tree 
' is never correct. Strange's prints were, when I knew him, 
' all done by Aliamet and his French journeymen, whose 
' names I forget. I also knew something of John Cooke, 
'who engraved after Hogarth. Cooke wished to give 
' Hogarth what he could take from Raffaellc \ that is, out- 
'line, and mass, and colour; but he could not.' Again, in 
the same one-sided, trenchant strain: — 'What is called the 
' English style of engraving, such as proceeded from the 
' toilettes of Woollett and Strange (for theirs were Fribble's 
'toilettes) can never produce character and expression. 
Drawing — ' firm, determinate outline ' — is in Blake's eyes, 
all in all : — ' Engraving is drawing on copper and nothing 
'eUe.' But, as Gravelot once said to my master, Basire 
*"D€ English may be very clever in deir own opinions, but 
' tU^ do not draw'' ' 
^L Before taking leave of Basire we will have a look at the 



22 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i773— 7«. 

house in Great Queen Street, in which Blake passed seven 
years of his youth; whither Gough, Tyson, and many 
another enthusiastic dignified antiquary, in knee-breeches 
and powdered wig, so often bent their steps to have a 
chat with their favourite engraver. Its door has opened 
to good company in its time, to engravers, painters, men 
of letters, celebrated men of all kinds. Just now we saw 
Goldsmith enter. When Blake was an apprentice, the 
neighbourhood of Lincoln's Inn Fields, though already an- 
tique, was a stately and decorous one, through which the 
tide of fashionable life still swayed on daily errands of 
pleasure or business. The house can yet be identified as 
No. 31, one of two occupied by Messrs. Corben and Son, the 
coach-builders, which firm, or rather their predecessors, in 
Basire's time occupied only No. 30. It stands on the northern 
side of the street, opposite — to the west or Drury Lane*ward 
of— Freemasons* Tavern ; almost exactly opposite New Yard 
and the noticeable ancient house at one side of that yard, with 
the stately Corinthian pilasters in well wrought brick. Basire's 
is itself a seventeenth century house refaced early in Hie 
Georgian era, the parapet then put up half hiding the old 
dormer windows of the third story. Originally, it must either 
have been part of a larger mansion, or one of a uniformly- 
built series, having continuous horizontal brick mouldings ; as 
remnants of the same on its neighbours testify. Outside, it 
remains pretty much as it must have looked in Blake's time ; 
old-fashioned people having (Heaven be praised!) tenanted 
it ever since the first James Basire and after him his widow 
ended their days there. With its green paint, old casements 
quiet old-fashioned shop-window, and freedom from the 
abomination of desolation (stucco), it retains an old<-world 
genuine aspect, rare in London's oldest neighbourhoods, and 
not at war with the memories which cling around the plate. 



CHAPTER IV. 

A BOY^S POEMS. 1768—77. [^t. 11—20.] 

The poetical essays of the years of youth and apprentice- 
ship are preserved in the thin octavo, Poetical Sketches by 
W. B., printed by help of friends in 1^83, and now so rare, that 
after some years* vain attempt, I am forced to abandon the 
idea of myself owning the book. I have had to use a copy 
borrowed from one of Blake's surviving friends. In such 
hands alone, linger, I fancy, the dozen copies or so still 
extant. There is (of course) none where, at any rate, there 
should be one — in the British Museum. 

'Tis hard to believe these poems were written in the 
author's teens, harder still to realize how some of them, in 
their unforced simplicity, their bold and careless freedom of 
sentiment and expression, came to be written at all in the 
third quarter of the eighteenth century : the age * of polished 
phraseology and subdued thought,' — subdued with a ven- 
geance. It was the generation of Shenstone, Langhome, 
Mason, Whitehead, the Wartons ; of obscurer Cunningham, 
Lloyd, Carter. Volumes of concentrated Beauties of Eitglish 
Poetry^ volumes as fugitive often as those of original verse, 
are literary straws which indicate the set of the popular 
taste. If we glance into one of this date, — say into that 
compiled towards the close of the century, by one Mr. 
Thomas Tompkins, which purports to be a collection 
(expressly compiled * to enforce the practice of Virtue *) of 
'Such poems as have been universally esteemed the first 



24 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1768—77. 

ornaments of our language/ — who are the elect ? We have 
in great force the names just enumerated, and among older 
poets then read and honoured, to the exclusion of Chaucer 
and the Elizabethans, so imposing a muster-roll as — Pamell^ 
Mallett, Blacklock, Addison, Gay ; and, ascending to the 
highest heaven of the century's Walhalla, Goldsmith, Thom- 
son, Gray, Pope; with a little of Milton and Shakspere 
thrown in as make-weight. 

Where, beyond the confines of his own most individual 
mind, did the hosier's son find his model for that lovely web 
of rainbow fancy already quoted ? I know of none in Eaglish 

literature. For the Song commencing 

• 

' My silks and fine array,' 

(see Vol. II.), with its shy evanescent tints and aroma as of 
pressed rose-leaves, parallels may be found among the lyrics 
of the Elizabethan age, an alien though it be in its own. The 
influence of contemporary models, unless it be sometimes 
Collins or Thomson, is nowhere in the volume discernible ; but 
involuntary emulation of higher ones partially known to him, 
there is ;— of the Reliques given to the world by Percy in 1 760 ; 
of Shakspere, Spenser, and other Elizabethans. For the youth's 
choice of masters was as unfashionable in Poetry as in Design. 
Among the few students or readers in that day of Shakspere's 
Venus and Adonis t Tarquin and Lucrece, and Sonnets, of Ben 
Jonson's Underwoods and Miscellanies^ the boy Blake was, 
according to Malkin, an assiduous one. The form of such a 
poem as 

*Love and harmony combine,' 

is inartificial and negligent ; but incloses the like intangible 
spirit of delicate fancy ; a lovely blush of life as it were^ 
suffusing the enigmatic form. Even schoolboy blunders 
against grammar, and schoolboy complexities of expression, 
fail to break the musical echo, or mar the naive sweetness of 
the two concluding stanzas ; which, in practised hands, might 



iET. 11—20.] A BOY'S POEMS. 2$ 

have been wrought into more artful melody with little increase 
of real effect. Again, how many reams of scholastic Pastoral 
have missed the simple gaiety of one which does not affect to 
be a ' pastoral ' at all : — 

'I love the jocund dance.' 

Of the remarkable Mad Song extracted by Southey in his 
Doctor, who probably valued the thin octavo, as became a 
great Collector, for its rarity and singularity, that poet has 
said nothing to show he recognised its dramatic power, the 
daring expression of things otherwise inarticulate, the unity 
of sentiment, the singular truth with which the key-note 
is struck and sustained, or the eloquent, broken music of its 
rhythm. 

The ' marvellous Boy' that 'perished in his pride,* (1770) 
while certain of these very poems were being written, amid all 
his luxuriant promise, and memorable displays of Talent pro- 
duced few so really original as some of them. There are not 
many more to be instanced of quite such rare quality. But 
all abound in lavish if sometimes unknit strength. Their 
faults are such alone as flow from youth, as are inevitable in 
one whose intellectual activity is not sufficiently logical to re- 
duce his imaginings into sufficiently clear and definite shape. 
As examples of poetic power and freshness quickening the 
imperfect, immature y5?/7«, take his verses To the Evening Star 
in which the concluding lines subside into a reminiscence, but 
not a slavish one, of Puck's Night Song in Midsumtner Night's 
Dream ; or the lament To the Muses, — not inapposite surely, 
when it was written ; or again, the full-coloured invocation 
To Summer, 

In a few of the poems, the influence of Blake's contem- 
porary, Chatterton, — of the Poems of Rowley, i.e., is visible. 
In the Prologue to King John, Couch of Death, Samson, &c, 
all written in measured prose, the influence is still more con- 
spicuous of Macpherson's Ossian, which had taken the world 



26 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1768—77. 

by storm in Blake's boyhood, and in his manhood was a ruling 
power in the poetic world. In the * Prophetic ' and too often 
incoherent rhapsodies of later years this influence increases 
unhappily, leading the prophet to indulge in vague inpalpable 
personifications, as dim and monotonous as a moor in a mist 
To the close of his life, Blake retained his allegiance to Ossian 
and Rowley. *I believe,' writes he, in a MS. note (1826) on 
Wordsworth's Supplementary Essay, 'I believe both Mac- 
pherson and Chatterton : that what they say is ancient, is so.' 
And again, when the Lake Poet speaks contemptuously of 
Macpherson, * I own myself an admirer of Ossian equally 
' with any other poet whatever ; of Rowley and Chatterton 
' also.' 

The longest piece in this volume, the most daring and 
perhaps, considering a self-taught boy wrote.it, the most 
remarkable, is the Fragment or single act, of a Play on the 
high historic subject of King Edward III. : one of the few in 
old English history accidentally omitted from Shakspere's 
cycle. In his steps it is, not in those of Addison or Home, 
the ambitious lad strives as a dramatist to tread ; and, despite 
halting verse, confined knowledge, and the anachronism of a 
modem tone of thought, — not unworthily, though of course 
with youthful unsteady stride. The manner and something 
of the spirit of the Historical Plays is caught, far more nearly 
than by straining Ireland in his forgeries. Of this performance 
as of the other contents of the volume, specimens must be 
deferred till Vol. II. ; not to interrupt the thread of our 
narrative too much. 

Fully to appreciate such poetry as the lad Blake composed 
in the years 1768-77, let us call to mind the dates at which 
first peeped above the horizon the cardinal lights which 
people our modern poetic Heavens, once more wakening into 
life the dull corpse of English song. Five years later than 
the last of these dates was published a small volume of 
PocmSy * By William Cowper, of the Middle Temple.' Nine 
years later {1786), Poems in the Scottish Dialect , by Robert 



XT. II— 20.] A boy's poems. 27 

Burns, appealed to a Kilmarnock public Sixteen years later 
(1793) came the poems Wordsworth afterwards named 
Juvenile, written between the ages of eighteen and twenty- 
two : The Evening Walk, and the Descriptive Sketches, with 
their modest pellucid merit, still in the fettered i8th century 
manner. Not till twenty-one years later (1798), followed the 
more memorable Lyrical Ballads, including for one thing, 
the Tintem Abbey of Wordsworth, for another. The Ancient 
Mariner of Coleridge. 

All these Poems had their influence, prompt or tardy, 
widening eventually into the universal. All were at any rate 
publisJted. Some — those of Burns, — appealed to the feelings 
of the people, and of all classes ; those of Cowper to the 
most numerous and influential section of an English com- 
munity. The unusual notes struck by William Blake, in any 
case appealing but to one class and that a small one, were 
fated to remain unheard, even by the Student of Poetry, 
until the process of regeneration had run its course, and, 
we may say, the Poetic Revival gone to seed again, since 
the virtues of simplicity and directness the new poets began 
by bringing once more into the foreground are those least 
practised now. 





CHAPTER V. 

STUDENT AND LOVER. I778-«I. [«T. II— 85.] 

Apprenticeship to Basire having ended, Blake, now 
(1778) twenty-one, studied for a while in the newly formed 
Royal Academy : just then in an uncomfortable chrysalis 
condition, having had to quit its cramped lodgings in Old 



jtT. 21—22.] STUDENT AND LOVER. 29 

Somerset Palace (pulled down in 1775) and awaiting comple- 
tion of the new building in which more elbow-room was to be 
provided. He commenced his course of study at the Academy 
(in the Antique School) ' under the eye of Mr. Moser/ its first 
Keeper, who had conducted the parent Schools in St. Martin's 
Lane. Moser, like Kauffman and Fuseli, was Swiss by birth : 
a sixth of our leading artists were still foreigners, as list^ of 
the Original Forty testify. By profession he was a chaser un- 
rivalled in his generation, medallist — he modelled and chased 
a great seal of England, afterwards stolen — and enamel- 
painter, in days when costly watch-cases continued to furnish 
ample employment for the enamel-painter. He was, in short, 
a skilled decorative artist during the closing years of Decora- 
tive Art's existence as a substantive fact in England, or Europe. 
The thing itself — the very notion that such art was wanted— 
was about to expire ; and be succeeded, for a dreary genera- 
tion or two, by a mere blank n^ation. Miss Moser, after- 
wards Mrs. Lloyd * the celebrated flower painter,' another of 
the original members of the Academy, was George Michael 
Moser's daughter. Edwards, in his Anecdotes of PainterSy 
obscurely declares of the honest Switzer that he was ' well 
' skilled in the construction of the human figure and, as an 

* instructor in the Academy, his manners, as well as his 

* abilities, rendered him a most respectable master to the 

* students.' A man of plausible address, as well as an in- 
genious, the quondam chaser and enameller was, evidently: 
a favourite with the President (Reynolds), a favourite with 
royalty. On the occasion of one royal visit to the Academy, 
after 1780 and its instalment in adequate rooms in the 
recently completed portion of Chambers* ' Somerset Place,' 
Queen Charlotte penetrated to the old man's apartment, and 
made him sit down and have an hour's quiet chat in German 
with her. To express his exultation at such 'amiable con- 
descension,' the proud Keeper could ever after hardly find 
broken English and abrupt gestures sufficiently startling and 
whimsical. He was a favourite, too, with the students ; many 



30 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1778—7^ 

of whom voluntarily testified their regard around his grave in 
the burial-ground of St Paul's, Covent Garden, when the time 
came to be carried thither in January, 1783. 

The specific value of the guidance to be had by an in- 
genuous art-student from the venerable Moser, now a man 
of seventy-three, is suggestively indicated by a reminiscence 
afterwards noted down in Blake's MS. commentary on Rey- 
nolds' Discourses. * I was once,' he there relates, ' looking 
' over the prints from Raffaelle and Michael Angelo in the 
' Library of the Royal Academy. Moser came to me, and 
' said, — " You should not study these old, hard, stiff, and 
' dry, unfinished works of art : stay a little and / will show 

* you what you should study." He then went and took 

* down Le Brun and Rubens* Galleries. How did I secretly 

* rage ! I also spake my mind ! I said to Moser, — ** These 
' things that you call finished are not even begun : how then 

* can they be finished ? " The man who does not know the 

* beginning cannot know the end of art.' Which observations 
'tis to be feared Keeper Moser accounted hardly dutiful. 
For a well-conducted Student ought, in strict duty, to spend 
(and in such a case lose) his evening in looking through what 
his teacher sets before him. It has happened to other 
Academy students under subsequent Keepers and Libra- 
rians, I am told, to find themselves in a similarly awkward 
dilemma to this of Blake s. 

With the Antique, Blake got on well enough, drawing with 

* great care all or certainly nearly all the noble antique 
figures in various views.' From the living figure he also 
drew a good deal ; but early conceived a distaste for the 
study as pursued in Academies of Art. Already ' life,' in so 
factitious, monotonous an aspect of it as that presented by a 
Model artificially posed to enact an artificial part — to main- 
tain in painful rigidity some fleeting gesture of spontaneous 
Nature's — became, as it continued, * hateful * looking to him, 
laden with thick-coming fancies, * more like death ' than life; 
nay (singular to say), * smelling of mortality ' — to an imagin- 



iBT. 21— 22.] STUDENT AND LOVER. 3 1 

ative mind ! * Practice and opportunity/ he used afterwards 
to declare, ' very soon teach the language of art : ' as much, 
that is, as Blake ever acquired, not a despicable if imperfect 
quantum. * It's spirit and poetry, centred in the imagination 
alone, never can be taught,- and these make the artist:' a 
truism, the fervid poet already began to hold too exclusively 
in view. Even at their best-^as the vision-seer and in- 
stinctive Platonist tells us in one of the very last years of 
his life (MS. notes to WordswortK) — mere * Natural Objects 
' always did and do weaken^ deaden and obliterate imagination 
' in me ! ' 

The student still continued to throw ojf drawings and verses 
for his own delight ; out of his numerous store of the former, 
engraving two designs from English history. One of these 
engravings, King Edward and Queen Eleanor^ 'published* 
by him at a later date (from Lambeth), I have seen. It is a 
meritorious but heavy piece of business, in the old-fashioned 
plodding style of line-engraving, wherein the hand mono- 
tonously hatched line after line, now struck off by machine. 
The design itself and the other water-colour drawings of this 
date, all on historical subjects, which now lie scattered among 
various hands, have little of the quality or of the mannerism 
we are accustomed to associate with Blake's name. They 
remind one rather of Mortimer, the historical painter (now 
obsolete) of that era, who died, high in reputation with his 
contemporaries for fancy and correct drawing of the human 
figure, but neglected by patrons, about this very time, viz. in 
1779, at the early age of forty. Of Mortimer, Blake always 
continued to entertain a very high estimate. The designs of 
this epoch in his- life are correctly drawn, prettily composed, 
and carefully coloured, in a clear uniform style of equally 
distributed positive tints. But the costumes are vague and 
mythical, without being graceful and credible ; what man- 
nerism there is is a timid one, such as reappears in Hamilton 
always, in Stothard often ; the general effect is heavy and 
uninteresting, — and the net result a yawn. One drawing 



32 LIFE OF WILUAM BLAKE. [tr79-^- 

dating from these years (1778-9), The Penamuofjame Short 
in St Paul's Church, thirty years later was included in Blake's 
Exhibition of his own Works (1809). In the Descriptive 
Catalogue he speaks of it with some complacency as ' proving 
' to the author, and he thinks to any discerning eye, that the 
' productions of our youth and of our maturcr age are equal in 
' all essential points.' To me, on inspecting the same, it 
proves nothing of the kind ; though it be a very exemplary 
performance in the manner just indicated. The ceritral figure 
of Jane Shore has however much grace and sweetness ; and 
the intention of the whole composition is clear and decisive. 
One extrinsic circunjstance materially detracts from the ap- 
pearance of this and other water-colour drawings from his 
hand of the period : viz. that, as a subsittute for glass, they 
were all eventually, in prosecution of a hobby of Blake's, 
varnished — of which process, applied to a water-colour 
drawing, nothing can exceed the disenchanting, not to say 
destructive effect. 

There is a scarce engraving inscribed * W. B. inv. 1780* 
(reproduced at the head of this chapter,) which, within certain 
limitations, has much more of the peculiar Blake quality and 
intensity about it. The subject is evidently a personification 
of Morning, or Glad Day : a nude male figure, with one foot 
on earth, just alighted from above; a flood of radiance still 
encircling his head ; his arms outspread, — as exultingly brii^* 
ing joy and solace to this lower world, — not wth classic 
Apollo-like indifference, but with the divine chastened fervour 
of an angelic minister. Below crawls a caterpillar, and a 
hybrid kind of night-moth takes wing. 

Meanwhile, the Poet and Designer, living under his father 
the hosier's roof, 28, Broad Street, had not only to educate 
himself in high art, but to earn his livelihood by humbler 
art — engraver's journey-work. During the years 1779 to 178a 
and onwards, one or two booksellers gave him employment in 
engraving from afterwards better known fellow designers. 
Harrison of Paternoster Row employed him for his Novelist^ 



iBT. 21—25.] STUDENT AND LOVER. 33 

Magazine^ or collection of approved novels ; for his Ladie^ 
Magazine, and perhaps other serials ; J. Johnson, a constant 
employer during a long series of years, for various books ; 
and occasionally other booksellers, — Macklin, Buckland, and 
(later) Dodsley, Stockdale, the Cadells. Among the first in 
date of such prints, was a well-engraved frontispiece after 
Stothard, bold and telh'ng in light and shade (* The Four 
Quarters of the Globe'), to a System of Geography (1779); 
and another after Stothard (* Clarence's Dream ') to Enfield's 
Speaker, published by Johnson in 1780. Then came with 
sundry miscellaneous, eight plates after some of Stothard's 
earliest and most beautiful designs, for ^e Novelists' Maga- 
zine. The designs brought in young Stothard, hitherto an 
apprentice to a Pattem*draftsman in Spitalfields, a guinea 
a-piece, — and established his reputation : their intrinsic grace, 
feeling, and freshness being (for one thing) advantageously 
set off by very excellent engraving, of an infinitely more 
robust and honest kind than the smooth style of Heath and 
his School which succeeded to it and eventually brought 
about the ruin of line-engraving for book illustrations. Of 
Blake's eight engravings, all thorough and sterling pieces 
of workmanship, two were illustrations of Don Quixote, 
one of the Sentimental Journey (1782), one of Miss Fielding's 
David Simple, another of Launcelot Greaves, three of Gran- 
dison (1782-3). 

One Trotter, a fellow-engraver who received instructions 
from Blake, engraved a print or two after Stothard, and was 
also draftsman to the calico-printers, had introduced Blake to 
Stothard, the former's senior by nearly two years, then 
lodging in company with Shelly, the miniature painter, in 
the Strand. Stothard introduced Blake to Flaxman, who 
after seeing some of the early graceful plates in the Novelists' . 
Magazine, had of his own accord made their designer's 
acquaintance. Flaxman, of the same age and standing as 
Stothard, was as yet subsisting by his designs for the first 
Wedgwood, and also living in the Strand with his father who 

VOL. I. D 



34 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [178a 

there^ kept a well-known plaster-cast shop when plaster-cast 
shops were rare. A wistful remembrance of the superiority 
of ' old Flaxman*s ' casts still survives among artists. In 
1 78 1 the sculptor married, taking house and studio of his 
own at 27, Wardour Street, and becoming Blake's near 
neighbour. He proved — despite some passing clouds which 
for a time obscured their friendship at a later era— one of the 
best and firmest friends Blake ever had, as great artists often 
prove to one another in youth. The imaginative man needed 
friends ; for his gifts were not of the bread-winning sort. He 
was one of those whose genius is in a far higher ratio than 
their talents : and it is Talent which commands worldly 
success. Amidst the miscellaneous journey-work which 
about this period kept Blake's graver going, if not his mind, 
may be mentioned the illustrations to a show-list of Wedg- 
wood's productions, specimens of his latest novelties in 
earthenware and porcelain — tea and dinner services, &c 
Seldom have such very humble essays in Decorative Art — 
good enough in form, but not othemise remarkable — ^tasked 
the combined energies of a Flaxman and a Blake ! To the 
list of the engraver's friends was afterwards added Fuseli, of 
maturer age and acquirements, man of letters as well as Art, 
a multifarious and learned author. From intercourse with 
minds like these, much was learned by Blake, in his art and 
out of it In 1780, Fuseli, then thirty-nine, just returned 
from eight years' sojourn in Italy, became a neighbour, 
lodging in Broad Street, where he remained until 1782. In 
the latter year, his original and characteristic picture of TAi 
Nightmare made ' a sensation ' at the Exhibition : the first 
of his to do so. The subsequent engraving gave him a 
European reputation. Artists' homes as well as studios 
abounded then in Broad Street and its neighbourhood. 
Bacon the sculptor lived in Wardour Street, Paul Sandby 
in Poland Street, the fair RJl., Angelica Kauffinan in Golden 
Square, Bartolozzi with his apprentice Sherwin in Broad 
Street itself and, at a later date, John Varley, 'father of 



/KT. 23.] STUDENT AND LOVER. 35 

modem Water Colours/ in the same street (No. 15). Lite- 
rary celebrities were not wanting : in Wardour Street, Mrs. 
Chapone ; in Poland Street, pushing, pompous Dr. Burney, 
of Musical History notoriety. 

In the catalogue of the now fairly established Royal 
Academy's Exhibition for 1780, its twelfth^ and first at 
Somerset House — all previous had been held in its * Old 
Room' (originally built for an auction room), on the south 
side of Pall Mall East — appears for the first time a work by 
* W. Blake.' It was an Exhibition of only 489 * articles ' in 
all, waxwork and * designs for a fan ' inclusive ; among its 
leading exhibitors, boasting Sir Joshua Reynolds and Mary 
Moser, R.A.y Gainsborough and Angelica KaufTman, R,A. 
Cosway, and Loutherbourg, Paul Sandby and Zoffany, 
Copley (Lyndhurst's father), and Fuseli, not yet Associate. 
Blake's contribution is the Death of Earl Godwin exhibited 
in * The Ante-room * devoted to flower-pieces, crayons, minia- 
tures, and water-colour landscapes — some by Gainsborough. 
This first Exhibition in official quarters went off" with much 
Maty netting double the average amount realized by its 
predecessors : viz. as much as %yQQol. 

In the sultry, early days of June, 1780, the Lord George 
Gordon No-Popery Riots rolled through Town. Half London 
was sacked, and its citizens for six days laid under forced 
contributions by a mob some forty thousand strong of boys, 
pickpockets, and * roughs.' In this outburst of anarchy, Blake 
long remembered an involuntary participation of his own. 
On the third day, Tuesday, 6th of June, * the Mass-houses * 
having already been demolished — one, in Blake's near neigh- 
bourhood, Warwick Street, Golden Square — and various pri- 
vate houses also \ the rioters, flushed with gin and victory, 
were turning their attention to grander schemes of devastation. 
That evening, the artist happened to be walking in a route 
chosen by one of the mobs at large, whose course lay from 
Justice Hyde's house near Leicester Fields, for the destruction 
of which less than an hour had sufficed, through Long Acre, 

D 2 



36 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [itSo-Sz. 

past the quiet house of Blake*s old master, engraver Basire 
in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, and down Hol- 
born, bound for Newgate. Suddenly, he encountered the 
advancing wave of triumphant Blackguardism, and was forced 
(for from such a great surging mob there is no disentangle- 
ment) to go along in the very front rank, and witness the 
storm and burning of the fortress-like prison, and release 
of its three hundred inmates. This was a pecidiar experience 
for a spiritual poet ; not without peril, had a drunken soldier 
chanced to have identified him during the after weeks of 
indiscriminate vengeance: those black weeks when strings 
of boys under fourteen were hung up in a row to vindicate 
the offended majesty of the Law. * / never saw boys 
cry so !^ observed Selwyn, connoisseur in hang^ing, in his 
Diary, 

It was the same Tuesday night, one may add, that among 
the obnoxious mansions of magistrate and judge gutted of 
furniture, and consigned to the flames, Lord Mansfield's in 
Bloomsbury Square was numbered. That night, too — every 
householder having previously chalked the talisman, 'No 
Popery,' on his door, (the very Jews inscribing * This House 
True Protestant!*) every house showing a blue flag, e\'cry 
wayfarer having donned the blue cockade — that night the 
Londoners with equal unanimity illuminated their windows. 
Still wider stupor of fear followed next day : and to it, a 
still longer sleepless night of prison-burning, drunken in* 
fatuation, and onsets from the military, let slip at last from 
civil leash. Six-and-thirty fires are to be seen simultaneously 
blazing in one new neighbourhood (Bloomsbury), not far from 
Blake's and still nearer to Basire*s ; whence are heard the 
terrible shouts of excited crowds, mingling with the fiercer 
roar of the flames, and with the reports of scattered musket- 
shots at distant points from the soldiery. Some inhabitants 
catch up their household effects and aimlessly run up and 
down the streets with them ; others cheerfully pay their 
guinea a mile for a vehicle to carry them beyond Ac 



/KT. 23—25.] STUDENT AND LOVER. 37 

tumult These were not favourable days for designing, or 
even quiet engraving. 

Since his twentieth year, Blake's energies had been ' wholly 
directed to the attainment of excellence in his profession' as 
artist : too much so to admit of leisure or perhaps inclination 
for poetry. Engrossing enough was the indispensable effort 
to master the difficulties of Design, with pencil or in water- 
colours. With the still tougher mechanical difficulties of 
oil-painting he never fairly grappled ; but confined himself 
to water-colours and tempera (on canvas), with, in after years 
a curious modification of the latter — which he daringly 
christened 'fresco.' Original invention now claimed more 
than all his 4eisure. His working-hours during the years 
1780 to 1782 were occupied by various book-plates for the 
publications already named. These voluminous, well-illus- 
trated serials are not infrequently stumbled on by the Col- 
lector at the second-hand booksellers. Very few are to be 
found in our Museum Library, professedly miscellaneous as 
that collection is. In the Print Room exists a fine series 
of engravings after Stothard ; which, however, being undated, 
affords little help to those wishing to learn something about 
the engravers of them. 

These were days of Courtship, too. And the course of 
Blake's love did not open smoothly. 'A lively little girl' 
in his own, or perhaps a humbler station, the object of his 
first sighs readily allowed him, as girls in a humbler class will, 
meaning neither marriage nor harm, to ' keep company ' with 
her ; to pay his court, take mutual walks, and be as lovesick 
as he chose ; but nowise encouraged the idea of a wedding. 
In addition to the pangs of fruitless love, attacks of jealousy 
had stoically to be borne. When he complained that the 
favour of her company in a stroll had been extended to 
another admirer, * Are you a fool } ' was the brusque reply 
— with a scornful glance. 'That cured me of jealousy,' 
Blake used nalfvely to relate. One evening at a friend's 
house he was bemoaning in a corner his love-crosses. His 



38 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [178*. 

listener, a dark-eyed generous-hearted girl* frankly declared 
' She pitied him from her heart/ * Do you pity me ? ' • Yes I 
I do, most sincerely.' ' Then I love you for that I * he replied 
with enthusiasm : — such soothing pity is irresistible. And a 
second more prosperous courtship began. At this, or perhaps 
a later meeting, followed the confession, I dare say in lower 
tones, ' Well! and I love you ! * — always, doubtless, a pretty 
one to hear. 

The unsophisticated maiden was named Catherine Sophia 
Boucher — plebeian corruption, probably, of the grand historic 
name, Bourchier ; — daughter of William and Mary Boucher of 
Battersea. So at least the Register gives the name : where, 
within less than ten years, no fewer than seven births to the 
same parents, including two sets of twins in succession, 
immediately precede hers. Her position and connexions 
in life were humble, humbler than Blake's own ; her edu- 
cation — as to book-lore — neglected, not to say omitted. For 
even the (at first) paltry makeshift of National Schools had 
not yet been invented; and Sunday Schools were first set 
going a little after this very time, namely in 1784. When, 
by and by, Catherine's turn came, as bride, to sign the Parish 
Register, she, as the same yet mutely testifies, could do no 
more than most young ladies of her class then, or than the 
Bourchiers, Stanleys, and magnates of the land four centuries 
before could do — ^viz. make a X as * her mark : * her surname 
on the same occasion being misspelt for her and vulgarized 
into Butcher, and her second baptismal name omitted. A 
bright-eyed, dark-haired brunette, with expressive features 
and a slim graceful form, can make a young artist and poet 
overlook such trifles as defective scholarship. Nor were a fair 
outside and a frank accessible heart deceptive lures in this 
instance. Catherine — Christian namesake, by the way, of 
Blake's mother — ^was endowed with a loving loyal nature, an 
adaptive open mind, capable of profiting by good teaching, 
and of enabling her, under constant high influence,, to become 
a meet companion to her imaginative husband in his solitary 



JET. 25.] STUDENT AND LOVER. 39 

and wayward course. Uncomplainingly and helpfully, she 
shared the low and rugged fortunes which over-originality 
insured as his unvarying lot in life. She had mind and the 
ambition which follows. Not only did she prove a good 
housewife on straitened means, but in after-years, under his 
tuition and hourly companionship, she acquired, besides the 
useful arts of reading and writing, that which very , few 
uneducated women with the honestest effort ever succeed 
in attaining — some footing of equality with her husband, 
She, in time, came to work off his engravings as though she 
had been bred to the trade ; nay, imbibed enough of his very 
spirit to reflect it in Design which might almost have been 
his own. 

Allan Cunningham says she was a neighbour. But the 
marriage took place at Battersea, where I trace relatives of 
Blake's father to have been then living. During the course 
of the courtship, many a happy Surrey ramble must have 
been taken towards and around the pleasant village of the 
St. Johns. The old family-seat, spacious and venerable, still 
stood, in which Lord Bolingbroke had been born and died, 
which Pope had often visited. The village was ' four miles 
from London ' then, and had just begun to shake hands with 
Chelsea by a timber bridge over the Thames ; the river bright 
and clear there at low tide as at Richmond now, with many a 
placid angler dotting its new bridge. Green meadow and 
bright cornfield lay between the old-fashioned winding High 
Street and the purple heights of Wimbledon and Richmond. 
In the volume of 1783, among the poems which have least 
freshness of feeling, being a little alloyed by false notes as of 
the poetic Mocking Bird, are one or two love-poems antici- 
pating emotions as yet unfelt. And Love, it is said, must be 
felt ere it can be persuasively sung. One or two stanzas, if 
we did not know they had been written long before, might 
well have been allusive to the ' black-eyed maid ' of present 
r^o?cf^ and the * sweet village * where he wooed her. 



40 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [178a. 

When early mom walks forth in sober grey, 
Then to my black-ey'd maid I haste away; 
When evening sits beneath her dusky bow'r 
And gently sighs away the silent hour, 
The village-bell alarms, away I go, 
And the vale darkens at my pensive woe. 

To that sweet village, where my black-ey'd maid 

Doth drop a tear beneath the silent shade, 

I tiun my eyes; and pensive as I go, 

Curse my black stars, and bless my pleasing woe. 

Oft when the summer sleeps among the trees, 
Whisp'ring faint murmurs to the scanty breeze, 
I walk the village round ; if at her side 
A youth doth walk in stolen joy and pride, 
I curse my stars in bitter grief and woe. 
That made my love so high and me so low. 



The last is an inapplicable line to the present case, — 
decidedly «;«prophetic. In a better, more Blake-like manner 
is the other poem, apposite to how many thousand loyers, in 
how many climes, since man first came into the planet. 



My feet are wing'd while o'er the dewy lawn 

I meet my maiden risen with the mom: 

Oh, bless those holy feet, like angel's feet ! 

Oh, bless those limbs beaming with heavenly light ! 

As when an angel glitt'ring in the sky 
In times of innocence and holy joy. 
The joyful shepherd stops his grateful song 
To hear the music of that angel's tongue : 

So when she speaks, the voice of Heav'n I hear; 
So when we walk, nothing impure comes near; 
Each field seems Eden and each calm retreat; 
Each village seems the haunt of holy feet. 



iET. 25.] STUDENT AND LOVER. 4I 

But that sweet village where my black-e/d maid 
Closes her eyes in sleep beneath Night's shade, 
Whene'er I enter, more than mortal fire 
Bums in my soul, and does my song inspire. 



The occasional hackneyed rhyme, awkward construction, 
and verbal repetition, entailed by the requirements of very 
inartificial verse, are technical blemishes any poetical reader 
may by ten minutes' manipulation mend, but such as clung to 
Blake's verse in later and maturer years. 

The lovers were married, Blake being in his twenty- fifth 
year, his bride in her twenty-first, on a Sunday in August 
(the 1 8th), 1782, in the then newly rebuilt church of Battersea : 
a * handsome edifice,' say contemporary topographers. Which, 
in the present case, means a whitey-brown brick building in 
the church-warden style, rel)ring for architectual effect ex- 
ternally, on a nondescript steeple, a low slate roof, double 
rows of circular-headed windows, and an elevated western 
portico in a strikingly picturesque and unique position, almost 
upon the river as it were, which here takes a sudden bend to 
the south-west, the body of the church stretching alongside it. 
The interior, with its galleries (in which are interesting seven- 
teenth and eighteenth century mural tablets from the old 
church, one by Roubiliac), and elaborately decorated apsidal 
dwarf-chancel, has an imposing effect and a strongly marked 
characteristic accent (of its Day), already historical and in- 
teresting. There, standing above the vault wherein lies the 
coronetted coffin of Pope's Bolingbroke, the two plighted 
troth. The vicar who joined their hands, Joseph Gardnor, 
was himself an amateur artist of note in his day, copious 
' honorary contributor ' (not above customers) to the Ex- 
hibitions ; sending ' Views from the Lakes,' from Wales, and 
other much-libelled Home Beauties, and even Landscape 
Compositions * in the style of the Lakes,' whatever that may 
mean. Specimens of this master — pasteboard-like model of 
misty mountain, old manorial houses as of cards, perspective- 



42 UFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1782. 



less diagram of lovely vale — may be inspected in Williams' 
plodding History of Monmouthshire^ and in other books of 
topography. Engravers had actually to copy and laboriously 
bite in these young-lady-Iike Indian ink drawings. Con- 
spicuous mementoes of the vicar's Taste and munificence 
still survive, parochially, in the ' handsome crimson curtains ' 
trimmed with amber, and held up by gold cord with heavy 
gold tassels, festooned about the painted eastern window of 
the church : or rather in deceptively perfect imiiattaks of such 
upholstery, painted ('tis said) by the clergyman's own skilled 
hand on the light-grained wall of the circular chanceL Tlie 
window is an eighteenth century remnant piously preserved 
from the old church : a window literally /vii>f/^// not stained — 
the colours not burnt in, that is ; so that a deluded cleaner on 
one occasion rubbed out a portion. The subjects are ar- 
morial bearings of the St. Johns, and (at bottom) portraits of 
three august collateral connexions of the Family : Margaret 
Beauchamp, Henry VII. and Queen ElizabetlL The general 
effect is good in colour, not without a tinge of ancient harmony, 
yellow being the predominating hue. From the vicar^s hand, 
again, are the two small 'paintings on glass,' — The Lami 
bearing the sacred monogram, and T/ie Dove (descending), — 
which fill the two circular side-windows, of an eminently 
domestic type, in the curvilinear chancel-wall : paintings so 
' natural ' and familiarly ' like,' an innocent spectator forgets 
perhaps their sacred symbolism — as possibly did the artist 
too ! Did the future designer of Tlu Gates of Paradise^ the 
Jerusalem, and the Job, kneel beneath these trophies of 
religious art ? 



CHAPTER VI. 

INTRODUCTION TO THE POLITE WORLD. 1782—84. [mt. 25—27.] 

To his father, Blake's early and humble marriage is said to 
have been unacceptable ; and the young couple did not return 
to the hosier's roof. They commenced housekeeping on their 
own account in lodgings at 23, Green Street, Leicester Fields ; 
in which Fields or Square, on the north side, the junior 
branches of Royalty had lately abode, and 6n the east (near 
Green Street) great Hogarth. On the west side of it Sir 
Joshua, in these very years, had his handsome house and noble 
gallery. Green Street, then the abode of quiet private 
citizens, is now a nondescript street, given up to curiosity- 
shops, shabby lodging-houses and busy feet hastening to and 
from the Strand. No. 23, on the right-hand side going city- 
wards, next to th|e house at the comer of the Square, is one — 
from the turn the narrow Street here takes — at right angles 
with and looking down the rest of it At present, part 
tenanted by a shoemaker, the house is in an abject plight of 
stucco, dirt, and dingy desolation. In the previous year, as 
we have seen, friendly Flaxman had married and taken a 
house. 

About this time, or a little earlier, Blake was introduced 
by the admiring, sympathetic sculptor to the accomplished 
Mrs. Mathew, his own warm friend. The 'celebrated 
Mrs. Mathew ? ' Alas ! for tenure of mortal Fame ! This 



44 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [178a— 83. 

lady ranked among the distinguished blue-stockings of her 
day ; was once known to half the Town, the polite and 
lettered part thereof, as the agreeable, fascinating, spirituelU 
Mrs. Mathew, as, in brief, one of the most 'gifted and 
elegant * of women. As she does not, like her fair comrades, 
still flutter about the bookstalls among the half-remembered 
all-unread, and as no lettered contemporary has handed down 
her portrait, she has disappeared from us. Yet the lady, 
with her husband, the Rev. Henry Mathew, merit re- 
membrance from the lovers of Art, as the first discoverers 
and fosterers of the genius of Flaxman, when a boy not yet 
in teens, and his introducer to more opulent patrons. Their 
son, afterwards Dr. Mathew, was John Hunter's favourite 
pupil. Learned as well as elegant, she would- read Homer 
in Greek to the future sculptor, interpreting as she went, 
while the child sat by her side sketching a passage here and 
there; and thus she stimulated him to acquire hereafter some 
knowledge of the language for himself. She was an en- 
courager of musicians, a kind friend to young artists. To 
all of promising genius the doors of her house, 27, Rathbone 
Place, were open. Rathbone Place, not then made over to 
papier 'tnachd^ Artist's colours, toy-shops, and fancy-trades, 
was a street of private houses, stiffly genteel and highly 
respectable, nay, in a sedate way, qimsi fashionable ; the 
Westboume Street of that day, when the adjacent district 
of Bloomsbury with its Square, in which (on the countryward 
side) was the Duke of Bedford's grand House, was abso- 
lutely fashionable and comparatively new, lying on the 
northern skirts of London; when Great Ormond Street, 
Queen's Square, Southampton Row, were accounted * places 
of pleasure,' being * in one of the most charming situations 
about town,* next the open fields, and commanding a 'beauti- 
ful landscape formed by the hills of Highgate and Hampstead 
and adjacent country.' Amon^ the residents of Rathbone 
Place, the rebel Lords Lovat, Kilmarnock, Balmarino had at 
one time been numbered. Of the Mathews* house, by the 



MT. 26—27.] INTRODUCTION TO THE POLITE WORLD. 4$ 

way, now divided into two, both of them shops, the library or 
back parlour, garrulous Smith (NoUekens's biographer) in his 
Book for a Rainy Day tells us, was decorated by grateful 
Flax<man * with models in putty and sand, of figures in niches 
in the Gothic manner : ' qucBre if still extant ? The window 
was painted * in imitation of stained glass ' — just as that in 
Battersea church, those at Strawberry Hill, and elsewhere 
were, the practice being one of the valued arts or artifices of 
the day — by Loutherbourg's assistant, young Oram, another 
prot^gL The furniture, again, * bookcases, tables, and chairs, 
* were also ornamented to accord with the appearance of those 
'of antiquity.' 

Mrs. Mathew's drawing-room was frequented by most of 
the literary and known people of the last quarter of the 
century, was a centre of all then esteemed enlightened and 
delightful in society. Reunions were held in it such as Mrs. 
Montagu and Mrs. Vesey had first set going, unconsciously 
contributing the word blue-stocking to our language. There, 
in the list of her intimate friends and companions, would 
assemble those esteemed ornaments of their sex, — unreadable 
Chapone, of well improved mind ; sensible Barbauld ; ver- 
satile, agreeable Mrs. Brooke, novelist and dramatist ; learned 
and awful Mrs. Carter, a female Great Cham of literature, and 
protectress of 'Religion and Morality.' Thither came 
sprightly, fashionable Mrs. Montagu herself, Conyers Mid- 
dleton's pupil, champion of Shakspere in his urgent need 
against rude Voltaire, and a letter-writer almost as vivacious 
and piquante in the modish style as her namesake Lady 
Wortley ; her printed correspondence remaining still readable 
and entertaining. This is the lady whose powers of mind 
and conversation Dr. Johnson estimated so highly, and whose 
good opinion he so highly valued, though at last to his sorrow 
falling out of favour with her. It was she who gave the 
annual May-Day dinner to the chimney sweeps, in commemo- 
ration of a well-known family incident. As illustrative of 
their status with the public, let us add, on Smith's authority, 



46 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. Ul^^-^ 

that the four last-named beaux-esprits figured as Muses in the 
Frontispiece to a Ladys Pocket Book for 1778 — a flattering 
apotheosis of nine contemporary female wits, including 
Angelica Kauffman and Mrs. Sheridan. Perhaps pious, 4>usy 
Hannah More, as yet of the world, as yet young and 
kittenish, though not without claws, also in her youth a good 
letter-writer in the woman-of-the-world style ; periiaps, being 
of the Montagu circle, she also would make one at Mrs. 
Mathew*s, on her visits to town to see her publishers, the 
Cadells, about some ambling poetic 4to. Fhrio and the Bos- 
bleuy modest Sacred Dratna^ heavy 8vo. Strictures on Female 
Educatiofiy or other fascinating lucubration on 

" Providence, foreknowledge, will and fate : " 

dissertations, which, after having brought their author in some 
thirty thousand pounds sterling, a capricious public consumes 
with less avidity than it did. Good heavens ! what a frowsy, 
drowsy * party sitting in a parlour,' now * all silent and all 
damned ' (in a literary sense), these venerable ladies and great 
literary luminaries of their day, ladies once lively and chatty 
enough, seem to an irreverent generation, at their present 
distance from us. The spiritual interval is an infinitely 
wider one than the temporal ; so foreign have mere 
eighteenth-century habits of thought and prim conventions 
become. Let us charitably believe the conversation of the 
fair was not so dull as thoir books ; that there was the 
due enlivenmcnt of scandal and small talk ; and that 
Mrs. Mathew — by far the most pleasant to think of, be- 
cause she did not commit herself to a book — ^that she, 
with perhaps Mrs. Brooke and Mrs. Montagu, took the 
leading parts. 

The disadvantages of a neglected education, such as 
Blake's, are considerable. But, one is here reminded, the 
disadvantages of a false one are greater : when the acquisi- 
tion of a second nature of conventionality, misconception of 



.BT. 26—37.] INTRODUCTION TO THE POLITE WORLD. 47 

high models and worship of low ones, is the kind in vogue. 
An inestimable advantage for an original mind to have 
retained its freedom, the healthy play of native powers, of 
virgin faculties yet unsophisticate I 

Mrs. Mathew's husband was a known man, too, man of 
taste and virtity incumbent of the neighbouring Proprietary 
Chapel, Percy Chapel, Charlotte Street, built for him by 
admiring lay friends ; an edifice known to a later generation 
as the theatre of Satan Montgomery's displays. Mr. Mathew 
filled also a post of more prestige as afternoon preacher at St. 
Martin's-in-the-Fields ; and * read the church-service more 
beautifully than any other clergyman in London,' a lady who 
had heard him informs me — and as others too used to think, 
Flaxman for one. With which meagre biographic trait, the 
inquisitive reader must be satisfied. The most diligent search 
yields nothing further. That he was an amiable, kindly man 
we gather from the circumstances of his first notice of the 
child Flaxman in the father's cast-shop, coughing over his 
Latin behind the counter, and of his continued notice of 
the weakly child during the years which elapsed before he 
was strong enough to walk from the Strand to Rathbone 
Place, and be received into the sunshine of Mrs. Mathew's 
smiles. 

To that lady's agreeable and brilliant conversazioni Blake 
was made welcome. At one of them, a little later (in 1784), 
Nollekens Smith, most literal, most useful of gossips, then a 
youth of eighteen, first saw the poet-painter, and * heard him 
read and sing several of his poems' — ' often heard him.' Yes ! 
sing them ; for Blake had composed airs to his verses. 
Wholly ignorant of the art of music, he was unable to n^te 
down these spontaneous melodies, and repeated them by ear. 
Smith reports that his tunes were sometimes * most singularly 
beautiful,' and * were noted down by musical professors ;' Mrs. 
Mathew's being a musical house. I wish one, of these 
musical professors or his executors would produce a sample. 
Airs simple and ethereal to match the designs' and poems of 



48 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1783—84. 

William Blake would be a novelty in music. One would fain 
hear the melody invented for 

How sweet I roam'd from field to field — 

or for some of the Songs of Innocence. ' He was listened to 
by the company/ adds Smith, ' with profound silence^ and 
allowed by most of the visitors to possess original and extra- 
ordinary merit' Phoenix amid an admiring circle of cocks 
and hens is alone a spectacle to compare mentally with 
this ! 

The accomplished hostess for a time took up Blake with 
much fervour. His poetic recitals kindled so much enthusiasm 
in her feminine bosom that she urged her husband to join his 
young friend Flaxman, in placing the poems — ^those of which 
we gave an account at the date of composition — in the clear 
light of print and to assume half the cost. Which, accord- 
ingly, was done, in 1783 : the year in which happened the 
execution for forgery of the gifted fellow-engraver — in whose 
face the boy Blake, twelve years before, had so strangely 
deciphered omens of his fate — Ryland. This unfortunate 
man's prepossessing appearance and manners inspired, on the 
other hand, so much confidence in the governor of the prison 
in which he awaited trial, that on one occasion the former took 
him out for a walk, implicitly trusting to his good faith that 
he would not avail himself of the opportunity to run away. 
Ryland's was the last execution at Tyburn, then still on the 
outside of London. This was the year, too, in which Barry 
published his Account of the Pictures in the Adelphi, On one 
copy I have seen a characteristic pencil recollection, from 
Blake's hand, of the strange Irishman's ill-favoured face : 
that of an idealized bulldog, with villainously low forehead, 
turn-up nose, and squalid tout-ensepnble. It is strong evidence 
of the mpdcst Flaxman's generous enthusiasm for his friend 
that, himself a struggling artist, little patronized, he should 
have made the first offer of printing these poems, and at his 



JET. 2*— 27.] INTRODUCTION TO THE POLITE WORLD. 49 

own charge ; and that he now bore a moiety of the cost. 
The book only runs to 74 pages, 8vo., and its unpretending 
title-page stands thus: Poetical Sketches; by W. B,, Londofi: 
Printed in the Year 1783. The clergyman 'with his usual 
urbanity ' penned a preface stating the youthful authorship of 
the volume, apologizing for 'irregularities and defects' in the 
poems, and ' hoping their poetic originality merits some 
' respite from oblivion.' 

The author'js absence of the leisure, 'requisite to such a 
' revisal of these sheets as might have rendered them less unfit 
' to meet the public eye, is pleaded.' Little revisal certainly 
they had, not even correction of the press, apparently. The 
pamphlet, which has no printer's name to be discredited by 
it, is as carelessly printed as an old English play, evidently ^t 
an establishment which did not boast a ' reader.' Semi-colons 
and fullstops where commas should be, misprints, such as 
' beds of dawn ' for * birds,' by no means help out the meaning. 
The whole impression was presented to Blake to sell to 
friends or publish, as he should think best Unfortunately, it 
never got published and, for all purposes except that of preser- 
vation, might as well have continued MS. As in those days 
there still survived, singular to say, a bond fide market for 
even mediocre verse, publishers and editors actually handing 
over hard cash for it, just as if it were prose, Blake's friends 
would have done better to have gone to the Trade with his 
poems. The thin octavo did not even get so far as the 
Monthly Review ; at all events, it does not appear in the copious 
and explicit Index of 'books noticed ' in that periodical, now 
quite a manual of extinct literature. 

The poems J. T. Smith, in 1784, heard Blake sing, can 
hardly have been those known to his hearers by the printed 
volume of 1783, but fresh ones, to the composition of which 
the printing of that volume had stimulated him : some, doubt- 
less, of the memorable and musical Songs of Innocence, as 
they were subsequently named. 

Blake's course of soirees in Rathbone Place was not long a 

VOL. I. E 



so 



LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 



U7«S-«4. 



smooth one. 'It happened unfortunately,' writes enigmatic 
Smith, whose forte is not grammar, ' soon after this period ' — 
soon after 1784, that is, the year during which Smith heard 
him ' read and sing his poems ' to an attentive auditory — 
' that in consequence of his unbending deportment, or what 
' his adherents arc pleased to call his manly firmness of 
' opinion, which certainly was not at all times considered 
' pleasing by every one, his visits were not so frequent ' : — and 
after a time ceased altogether, 'tis to be feared. One's know- 
ledge of Blake's various originalities of thought on all subjects, 
his stiffness, when roused, in maintaining them, also his high, 
though at ordinary moments inobtrusive notions of his calling, 
of the dignity of it, and its superiority to all mere worldly 
distinctions, help to elucidate gossiping John Thomas. One 
readily understands that on more intimate acquaintance, when 
it was discovered by well-regulated minds that the erratic 
Bard perversely came to teach, not to be taught, nor to be 
gently schooled into imitative proprieties and condescendingly 
patted on the back, he became less acceptable to the polite 
world at No. 27, than when first started as a prodigy in that 
elegant arena. 




CHAPTER VII. 



STRUGGLE AND SORROW. 1782-87. [/et. 25—30.] 



/■ 




Returning to 1782-3, among the engravings executed by- 
Blake in those years, I have noticed after Stothard, four 
illustrations — two vignettes and two oval plates — to Scott of 
Am weirs Poems, published by Buckland (1782) ; two frontis- 
pieces to Dodsley's Lady 5 Pocket Book — ' The morning amuse- 
ments of H.R.H. the Princess Royal and her four sisters' 
(1782), and * A Lady in full-dress* with another 'in the most 
fashionable undress now worn ' (1783) ; — and The Fall of 
Rosamond^ a circular plate in a book published by Macklin 
(1783). To the latter year also, the first after Blake's 
marriage, belong about eight or nine of the vignettes after 
the purest and most lovely of the early and best designs of 
the same artist — full of sweetness, refinement, and graceful 
fancy — which illustrate Ritson*s Collection of English Songs 
(3 vols. 8vo.) ; others being engraved by Grignon, Heath, &c. 
In the first volume occur the best designs, and — what is 
remarkable — designs very Blake-like in feeling and concep- 
tion ; having the air of graceful translation of his inventions. 
Most in this volume are engraved by Blake> arid very finely, 

E 2 



52 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1783— «4- 

with delicacy, as well as force. I may instance in particular 
one at the head of the Love Songs, a Lady singing, Cupids 
fluttering before her, a singularly refined composition ; 
another, a vignette to Jeinmy Dawson^ which is, in fact, Hero 
awaiting Leander ; another to Wlun Lovely Woman, a sitting 
figure of much dignity and beauty. 

In after-years of estrangement from Stothard, Blake used 
to complain of this mechanical employment as engraver to a 
fellow designer, who (he asserted) first borrowed from one 
that, in his servile capacity, had then to copy that comrade's 
version of his own inventions — as to motive and composition 
his own, that is. The strict justice of this complaint I can 
hardly measure, because I know not how much of the Design 
he afterwards engraved was actually being produced at this 
period — doubtless much. We shall hereafter have to point 
out that a good deal in Flaxman and Stothard may be traced 
to Blake, is indeed only Blake in the Vernacular, classicized 
and (perhaps half-unconsciously) adapted. His own com- 
positions bear the authentic first-hand impress ; those un- 
mistakable traces, which no hand can feign, of genuineness, 
freshness, and spontaneity ; the look as of coming straight 
from -another world — that in which Blake*s spirit lived. He, 
in his cherished visionary faculty, his native power and life- 
long habit of vivid Invention, was placed above all need or 
inclination to borrow from others. If, as happens to all, 
there occur occasional passages of unconscious reminiscence 
from the Old Masters, there is no cooking or disguise. His 
friend Fuseli, with characteristic candour, used to declare, 
* Blake is d d good to steal from ! * 

Certainly, Stothard, though even he could by utmost 
diligence only earn a moderate income — for if in request 
with the publishers he was neglected by picture-buyers — ^was 
throughout life, compared with Blake, a prosperous, affluent 
man. He had, throughout, the advantage of Blake with the 
public Hence, early, some feeling of soreness in his un- 
compliant companion s bosom. Stothard had the advantage 



AT. 26—27.] STRUGGLE AND SORROW. 53 

in the marketable quality of his genius, in his versatile 
talents, his superior technic attainments — or, rather, superior 
consistency of attainment ; above all, in his inborn grace 
and elegance. He could make the refined Domestic groups 
he so readily conceived, whether all his own or in part 
borrowed, far more palatable to the mariy, the cultivated 
many — cultivated Rogers for example, his life-long patron 
— than Blake could ever make his Dantesque sublimity, 
wild Titanic play of fancy, and spiritually imaginative dreams. 
I think the latter, as we shall see when we come to the Songs 
of Innocence and ExperiencCy was at this period of his life 
influenced to his advantage as a designer by contact with 
Stothard's graceful mind ; but that any capability of grander 
qualities occasionally shown by Stothard was derived, and 
perhaps as unconsciously, from Blake. And Stothard's 
earlier style is far purer and more 'matterful,' to use an 
expression of Charles Lamb's, than the sugar-plum manner 
of his latter years. In Stothard as in Blake, however 
nominally various the subject, there is the tyrannous pre- 
dominance of certain ruling ideas of the designer's. Stothard's 
tether was always shorter than Blake's ; but within the pre- 
scribed limits, his performance was the more (superficially) 
perfect, as well as soft, and rounded. 

In 1784 I find Blake engraving after Stothard and others 
in the Wit's Magazine. The Wifs Magazine was a ' Monthly 
Repository for the Parlour Window *: — not designed (as the 
title in those free-speaking days might warrant a suspicion) 
to raise a blush on Lady's cheek : — a miscellany of innocently 
entertaining rather than strictly witty gleanings, and original 
contributions, mostly amateur. A periodical curious to look 
back upon in days of a weekly Punch I It would be difficult 
now to find a literary parallel to Mr. Harrison's plan of ' creat- 
ing a spirit of emulation, and rewarding genius : ' by awarding 
* one silver medal ' per month to the * best witty tale, essay, 
or poem,' another to * the best answer ' to the munificent pro- 
prietor's ' prize enigmas.' A full list of the names and addresses 



54 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1784. 

of successful candidates for Fame is appended to each of the 
two octavo volumes to which the Magazine ran. A graceful 
grotesque, the Temple of Mirthy of Stothard's design, is the 
frontispiece to the first number : a folding sheet forcibly 
engraved by Blake in his characteristic manner of distributing 
strongly contrasted light and shade and tone. To it suc- 
ceeded, month by month, four similar engravings by him 
after a noted caricaturist of the day now forgotten, S. 
Collings : on broad-grin themes, such as The Tithe in Kind, 
or the Sow's Revenge^ T/ie Discomfited Duellists, The Blind 
Beggar's Hats, and May Day in London, After which, an 
engraver of lower grade, one Smith, {qucere, our friend 
NoUekens Smith ?) executes the engravings ; and after him 
a nameless one. The engraving caricatures of the earth 
earthy for this * Library of Momus ' was truly a singular task 
for a spiritual poet I 

Some slight clue to the original Design of this period in a 
somewhat different key is given by the Exhibition-Catalogues, 
which report Blake as making a second appearance at the 
Academy in 1784. In that year, — the year of Reynolds's 
Mrs, Siddons as the Tragic Muse, and Fortune-Teller, — there 
hung in the *Diawingand Sculpture Room,' two designs of 
Blake's : one, — War unchained by an A 7igel — Fire, Pestilence and 
Famine following ; the other, a Breach in a City — The Mom^ 
ing after a Battle, Companion-subjects, their tacit moral — 
the supreme despicableness of War — was one of which the 
artist, in all his tenets thorough-going, was a fervent pro- 
pagandist in days when War was tyrannously in the ascendant 
This, by the way, was the year of Peace with the tardily 
recognised North American States. I have not seen the 
former of those two drawings. The same theme gave birth 
about twenty years later to four very fine water-colour 
drawings, — for Dantesque intensity, imaginative directness, 
and power of the terrible : illustrations of the doings of the 
Destroying Angels that War lets loose — Fire.Plague, Pestilence, 
and Famine. Of the second-named we give here a reduced 




». 



■:....:,} 



MT. 27.] STRUGGLE AND SORROW. 55 

version. A vivid expositor of Blake {London Quarterly 
Review, January 1869"* says of this design : — 'An inexorable 
' severe grandeur pervades the general lines ; an inexplicable 
' woe — as of Samaria in the deadly siege, when Joram, wander- 

* ing on the walls, was obliged to listen to the appeal of the 
' cannibal mother — hangs over it. A sense of tragic culmina- 
'tion, the stroke of doom irreversible comes through the 
' windows of the eyes, as they take in the straight black lines 
' of the pall and bier ; the mother falling from her husband's 
' embrace with her dying child ; one fair corpse scarcely 
' earthed over in the foreground, and the black funereal reek of 

* a distant fire which consumes we know not what difficult 
' horror. It is enough to fire the imagination of the greatest 
' historical painter.' Another very grand and awe-inspiring 
illustration of still later date, of the same suggestive theme, is 
Let loose the Dogs of War — a demon or savage cheering on 
blood-hounds who seize a man by the throat ; of which Mr. 
Ruskin possesses the original pencil sketch, Mr. Linnell the 
water-colour drawing. 

During the summer of 1784, died Blake's father, an honest 
shopkeeper of the old school, and a devout man — a dissenter. 
He was buried in Bunhill Fields, on the fourth of July (a 
Sunday) says the Register. The second son, James, — a year 
and a half William's senior, — continued to live with the widow 
Catherine, and succeeded to the hosier s business in Broad 
Street, still a highly respectable street, and a good one for 
trade, as it and the whole neighbourhood continued until the 
era of Nash and the * first gentleman in Europe.' Golden 
Square was still the * town residence ' of some half-dozen 
M.P.'s — for county or rotten borough ; Poland Street and 
Great Marlborough Street of others. Between this brother 
and the artist no strong sympathy existed, little community 
of sentiment or common ground (mentally) of any kind ; 
although indeed, James — for the most part an humble matter- 
of-fact man — had his spiritual and visionary side too ; would 
at times talk Swedenborg, talk of seeing Abraham and Moses, 



$6 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1785—86. 

and to outsiders seem, like his gifted brother, ' a bit mad * — a 
mild madman instead of a wild and stormy. 

On his father's death, Blake, who found Design yield no 
income, Engraving but a scanty one, returned from Green 
Street, Leicester Fields, to familiar Broad Street. At No. 
2y, next door to his brother's, he set up shop as printseller 
and engraver, in partn>srship with a former fellow-apprentice 
at Basire's : James Parker, a man some six or seven years his 
senior. An engraving by Blake after Stothard, Zephynis and 
Flora (a long oval), was published by the firm " Parker and 
Blake " this same year (1784). Mrs. Mathew, still friendly 
and patronizing, though one day to be less eager for the poet's 
services as Lion in Rathbone Place, countenanced, nay perhaps 
first set the scheme going — in an ill-advised philanthropic 
hour; favouring it, if Smith's hints may be trusted, with solid 
pecuniary help. It will prove an ill-starred speculation ; 
Pegasus proverbially turning out an indifferent draught-horse. 
Mrs. BIkke helped in the shop ; the poet busied himself with 
his graver and pencil still. William Blake behind the counter 
would have been a curious sight to see! His younger and 
favourite brother, Robert, made one in the family ; William 
taking him as a gratis pupil in engraving. It must have been 
a singularly conducted commercial enterprise. No. 27 bears 
at present small trace — with its two quiet parlour-windows, 
apparently the same casements that have been there from the 
beginning — of having once been even temporarily a shop. 
The house is of the same character as No. 28 : a good-sized 
three-storied one, with panelled rooms ; its original aspect 
(like that of No. 28) wholly disguised, externally, by all- 
levelling stucco. It is still a private mansion ; but let out 
(now) in floors and rooms to many families, instead of one. 

From 27, Broad Street, Blake in 1785 sent four water-colour 
drawings or frescos, in his peculiar acceptation of the term, 
to the Academy-Exhibition, one by the way, at which our old 
friend Parson Gardnor is still exhibiting — some seven Views 
of Lake Scettery, One of Blake's drawings is from Gray, The 



iBT. 2^-29.] STRUGGLE AND SORROW. 57 

Bard. The others are subjects from the Story of Joseph : ^ 
Josephs Brethren bowing before him ; Joseph making himself 
known to them ; Joseph ordering Simeon to be bound. The 
latter series I have seen. The drawings are interesting for 
their imaginative merit, and as specimens, full of soft tranquil 
beauty, of Blake's earlier style : a very different one from that 
of his later and better-known works. Conceived in a dra- 
matic spirit, they are executed in a subdued key, of which 
extravagance is the last defect to suggest itself. The design 
is correct and blameless, not to say tame (for Blake), the colour 
full, harmonious and sober. At the head of the Academy- 
Catalogues of those days, stands the stereotype notification, 
' The pictures &c. marked (*) are to be disposed of Blake's 
are not so marked : let us hope they were disposed of ! The 
three Joseph drawings turned up within the last ten years in 
their original close rose-wood frames (a far from advantageous 
setting), at a broker's in Wardour Street, who had purchased 
them at a furniture-sale in the neighbourhood. They were sent 
to the International Exhibition of 1862. Among Blake's 
fellow-exhibitors, it is now curious to note the small galaxy of 
still remembered names — Reynolds, Nollekens, Morland, 
Cosway, Fuseli, Flaxman, Stothard (the last three yet juniors) 
— sprinkling the mob of forgotten ones : among which such 
as West, Hamilton, Rigaud, Loutherbourg, Copley, Serres, 
Mary Moser, Russell, Dance, Farington, Edwards, Garvey, 
Tomkins, are positive points of light. This year, by the way, 
Blake's friend Trotter exhibits a Portrait of the late Dr. 
Johnson^ ' a drawing in chalk from the life, about eighteen 
months before his death,' which should be worth something. 

Blake's brother Robert, his junior by nearly five years, had 
been a playfellow of Smith s, whose father lived near (in 
Great Portland Street) ; and from him we hear that * Bob, as 
he wis- familiarly called,' had ever been *much beloved by all 
his companions.' By William he was in these years not only 
taught to draw and engrave, but encouraged to exert his 
imagination in original sketches. I have come across some of 



S8 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1786— Sy. 

these tentative essays, carefully preserved by Blake during 
life, and afterwards forming part of the large accumulation of 
artistic treasure remaining in his widow's hands : the sole, but 
not at all unproductive, legacy, he had to bequeath her. 
Some are in pencil, some in pen and ink outline thrown up 
by a uniform dark ground washed in with Indian ink. They 
unmistakably show the beginner — not to say the child — in 
art ; are naif and archaic-looking ; rude, faltering, often puerile 
or absurd in drawing ; but are characterized by Blake-like 
feeling and intention, having in short a strong family likeness 
to his brother's work. The subjects are from Homer and the 
poets. Of one or two compositions there are successive and 
each time enlarged versions. True imaginative animus is 
often made manifest by very imperfect means ; in the compo- 
sition of the groups, and the expressive disposition of the 
individual figure, or of an individual limb : as^.^. (in one draw- 
ing) that solitary upraised arm stretched heaven-ward from 
out the midst of the panic-struck crowd of figures, who, em- 
bracing, huddle together with bowed heads averted from a 
Divine Presence. In another, a group of ancient men stand 
silent on the verge of a sea-girt precipice, beyond which 
they gaze towards awe-inspiring shapes and sights unseen 
by us. This last motive seems to have pleased Blake him- 
self. One of his earliest attempts, if not quite his earliest, in 
that peculiar stereotype process he soon afterwards invented, 
is a version of this ver>'' composition ; marvellously improved 
in the treatment — in the disposition and conception of the 
figures (at once fewer and better contrasted), as well, of 
course, as in drawing ; which was what Blake's drawing 
always was — whatever its wilful faults — not only full of 
grand effect, but firm and decisive, that of a Master. 

With Blake and with his wife, at the print-shop in Broad 
Street, Robert for two happy years and a half lived in seldom 
disturbed accord. Such domestications, however, ^\^n^.ys 
bring their own trials, their own demands for self-sacrifice. 
Of which the following anecdote will supply a hint, as vrell as 



MT, 29-30.] STRUGGLE AND SORROW. 59 

testify to much amiable magnanimity on the part of both the 
younger members of the household. One day, a dispute arose 
between Robert and Mrs. Blake. She, in the heat of discus- 
sion, used words to him, his brother (though a husband too) 
thought unwarrantable. A silent witness thus far, he could 
now bear it no longer, but with characteristic impetuosity — 
when stirred — rose and said to her: 'Kneel down and beg 
Robert's pardon directly, or you never see my face again ! ' 
A heavy threat, uttered in tones which, from Blake, unmistak- 
ably showed it was meant. She, poor thing ! ' thought it 
very hard,' as she would afterwards tell, to beg her brother- 
in-law's pardon when she was not in fault ! But being a 
duteous, devoted wife, though by nature nowise tame or 
dull of spirit, she did kneel down and meekly murmur, 
' Robert^ I beg your pardon^ I am in the wrong! * Young 
woman, you lie ! ' abruptly retorted he : ' / am in the 
wrong ! ' 

At the commencement of 1787, the artist's peaceful happi- 
ness was gravely disturbed by the premature death, in his 
twenty-fifth year, of this beloved brother : buried in Bunhill 
Fields the nth of February. Blake affectionately tended 
him in his illness, and during the last fortnight of it watched 
continuously day and night by his bedside, without sleep. 
When all claim had ceased with that brother's last breath, 
his own exhaustion showed itself in an unbroken sleep of 
three days' and nights' duration. The mean room of sick- 
ness had been to the spiritual man, as to him most scenes 
were, a place of vision and of revelation ; for Heaven lay 
about him still, in manhood, as in infancy it 'lies about us' 
all. At the last solemn moment, the visionary eyes beheld 
the released spirit ascend heavenward through the matter- 
of-fact ceiling, 'clapping its hands for joy' — a truly Blake- 
like detail. No wonder he could paint such scenes ! With 
him they were work'y-day experiences. 

In the same year, disagreements with Parker put an end to 
the partnership and to print-selling. This Parker subsequently 



6o LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [17S7. 

engraved a good deal after Stothard, in a style which evinces 
a common Master with Blake as well as companionship with 
him : in particular, the very fine designs, among Stothard's 
most masterly, to the Vicar of Wakefield (1792), which are 
very admirably engraved ; also most of those of Falconer's 
Shipwreck (1795). After Flaxman, he executed several of 
the plates to Homer's Iluid ; after Smirke, Tlie Comnumora- 
tion of 1797 ; after Northcote, The Revolution of 1688, and 
others ; and for Boydeirs Shakspeare, eleven plates. He died 
'about 1805,* according to the Dictionaries. 

Blake quitted Broad Street for neighbouring Poland Street : 
the long street which connects Broad Street with Oxford 
Street, and into which Great Marlborough Street runs at 
right angles. He lodged at No. 28 (now a cheesemonger's 
shop, boasting three brass bells), not many doors from Ox- 
ford Street on the right-hand side, going towards that 
thoroughfare ; the houses at which end of the street are 
smaller and of later date than those between Great Marl- 
borough and Broad Street Henceforward Mrs. Blake, 
whom he carefully instructed, remained his sole pupil — sole 
assistant and companion too ; for the gap left by his brother 
was never filled up by children. In the same year — that of 
Etty*s birth (March, 1787) amid the narrow streets of distant 
antique York — his friend Flaxman exchanged Wardour Street 
for Rome, and a seven years* sojourn in Italy. Already edu- 
cating eye and mind in his own way, Turner, a boy of twelve, 
was hovering about Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, in which 
the barber's son was born : some half mile— of (then) staid 
and busy streets — distant from Blake's Broad Street ; Long 
Acre, in which Stothard first saw the light, lying between. 
the two. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

MEDITATION : NOTES ON LAVATER. 1788. [mt, 31.] 

One of Blake's engravings of the present period is a frontis- 
piece after Fuseli to the latter's translation of the Aphorisms 
of his fellow-countryman, Lavater. The translation, which 
was from the original MS., was published by Johnson in 1788, 
the year of Gainsborough's death. If any deny merit to 
Blake as an engraver, let them turn from this boldly executed 
print of Fuseli's mannered but effective sitting figure, osten- 
tatiously meditative, of Philosophic Contemplation, or what- 
ever it may be, to the weak shadow of the same in the 
subsequent Dublin editions of this little book. For the Swiss 
enthusiast had then a European reputation. And this imposing 
scroll of fervid truisms and hap-hazard generalities, as often 
disputable as not, if often acute and striking, always ingenuous 
and pleasant, was, like all his other writings, warmly welcomed 
in this country. Now it, as a whole, reads unequal and mono- 
tonous ; does not impress one as an elixir of inspired truth ; 
induces rather, like most books of maxims, the ever recurring 
query, cui bono ? And one readily believes what the English 
edition states, that the whole epitome of moral wisdom was 
the rapid * effusion ' of one autumn. 

In the ardent, pious, but illogical Lavater's character, full 
of amiability, candour, and high aspiration, a man who in the 
eighteenth century believed in the continuation of miracles, 
of witchcraft, and of the power of exorcising evil spirits, who, 



62 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1788. 

in fact, had a bond fide if convulsive hold of the super-sensual, 
there was much that was german to William Blake, much 
that still remains noble and interesting. 

In the painter's small library the Aphorisms became one of 
his most favourite volumes. This well-worn copy contains a 
series of marginal notes, peatly written in pen and ink — it 
being his habit to make such in the books he read — which 
speak to the interest it excited in him. On the title-page 
occurs a naive token of affection : below the name Lavater 
is inscribed * Will. Blake,* and around the two names, the 
outline of a heart. 

Lavater*s final Aphorism tells the reader, * If you mean to 

* know yourself, interline such of these as affected you agreeably 
' in reading, and set a mark to such as left a sense of uneasi- 
' ness with you, and then show your copy to whom you please.' 
Blake showed his notes to Fuseli ; who said one assuredly 
could read their writer's character in ttum, 

'All old!' *This should be written in letters of gold on 
our temples,* are the endorsements accorded such an announce- 
ment as * The object of your love is your God ; ' or again, 
*Joy and grief decide character. What exalts prosperity.^ 
'What embitters grief? What leaves us indifferent.^ What 

* interests us ^ As the interest of man, so his God, as his 

* God so is he.* 

But the annotator sometimes dissents ; as from this : * You 

* enjoy with wisdom or with folly, as the gratification of your 
'appetites capacitates or unnerves your powers.' * False T 
is the emphatic denial, * for weak is the joy which is never 
wearied. * On one Aphorism, in which * frequent laughing,' 
and ' the scarcer smile of harmless quiet,' are enumerated as 
signs respectively *of a little mind,' or 'of a noble heart;' while 
the abstaining from laughter merely not to offend, &c is 
praised as ' a power unknown to many a vigorous mind ; ' 
Blake exclaims, ' I hate scarce smiles ; I love laughing 1 * 
'A sneer is often the sign of heartless malignity,* says Lava« 
ter. ' Damn sneerers ! ' echoes Blake. To Lavater's censure 



JKT. 31.] MEDITATION : NOTES ON LAVATER. 63 

of the 'pietist who crawls, groans, blubbers, and secretly 

* says to gold, Thou art my hope I and to his belly, Thou art 
' my god,' follows a cordial assent ' Everything,* Lavater 
rashly declares, * may be mimicked by hypocrisy but humility 
and love united.' To which, Blake : ' All this may be mimicked 
' very well. This Aphorism certainly was an oversight ; for 

* what are all crawlers but mimickers of humility and love } ' 

* Dread more the blunderer's friendship than the calumniator's 
' envy/ exhorts Lavater. * / doubt this I ' says the margin. 

At the maxim, * You may depend upon it that he is a good 
' man, whose intimate friends are all good, and whose enemies 

* are characters decidedly bad,* the artist (obeying his 
author's injunctions) reports himself ' Uneasy^ fears he * has 
not many enemies ! ' Uneasy, too, he feels at the declara- 
tion, * Calmness of will is a sign of grandeur : the vulgar, far 
' from hiding their will, blab their wishes — a single spark of 
'occasion discharges the child of passion into a thousand 

* crackers of desire.' Again : * Who seeks those that are 

* greater than himself, their greatness enjoys, and forgets his 

* greatest qualities in their greater ones, is already truly 

* great' To this, Mr. Blake : */ fu^pe I do not flatter myself 

* tJiat this is pleasant to me' 

Some of Blake's remarks are not without a brisk candour : 
as when the Zurich philanthropist tells one, * The great art to 

* love your enemy consists in never losing sight of man in 

* him,' &c. ; and he boldly replies, * None can see the man in 

* the enemy. If he is ignorantly so, he is not truly an enemy : 

* if maliciously so, not a man. I cannot love my enemy, for 

* my enemy is not a man but a beast And if I have, any, I 
' can love him as a beast, and wish to beat him.' And again, 
to the dictum, * Between passion and lie there is not a finger's 
' breadth,' he retorts, * Lie is contrary to passion.' Upon the 
aphorism, * Superstition always inspires littleness ; religion 

* grandeur of mind ; the superstitious raises beings inferior 

* to himself to deities,' Blake remarks at some length : * I do 

* not allow there is such a thing as superstition, taken in the 



64 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i7«S. 

' true sense of the word. A man must first deceive himself 
' before he is thus superstitious, and so he is a hypocrite. 
' No man was ever truly superstitious who was not as truly 

* religious as far as he knew. True superstition is ignorant 

* honesty, and this is beloved of God and man. Hypocrisy 
' is as different from superstition as the wolf from the lamb.' 
And similarly when Lavater, with a shudder, alludes to * the 
' gloomy rock, on either side of which superstition and in- 

* credulity their dark abysses spread/ Blake says, * Supersti- 

* tion has been long a bug-bear, by reason of its having been 

* united with hypocrisy. But let them be fairly separated, 

* and then superstition will be honest feeling, and God, who 
' loves all honest men, will lead the poor enthusiast in the 
' path of holiness.' This was a cardinal thought with Blake, 
and almost a unique one in his century. 

The two are generally of better accord. The since often- 
quoted warning, * Keep him at least three paces distant who 

* hates bread, music, and the laugh of a child I ' is endorsed 
as the * Best in the book.* Another, * Avoid like a serpent 
'him who speaks politely, yet writes impertinently,' elicits 
the ejaculation, *A dog! get a stick to him!* And the 
reiteration, ' Avoid him who speaks softly and writes sharply,* 
is enforced with, * Ah, rogue, I would be thy hangman I * 
The assertion that *A woman, whose ruling passion is not 

* vanity, is superior to any man of equal faculties,* begets the 
enthusiastic comment, * Such a woman I culore ! ' At the 
foot of another, on woman, * A great woman not imperious, 
' a fair woman not vain, a woman of common talents not 
'jealous, an accomplished woman who scorns to shine, are 

* four wonders just great enough to be divided among the 

* four comers of the globe,* Blake appends, * Let the men do 

* their duty and the women will be such wonders : the female 

* life lives from the life of the male. See a great many female 

* dependents and you know the man.' 

In a higher key, when Lavater justly affirms that ' He only 

* who has enjoyed immortal moments can reproduce them. 



JBT. 31.] MEDITATION : NOTES ON LAVATER. 65 

Blake exclaims, * Oh that men would seek immortal moments ! 
— that men would converse with God I ' as he, it may be 
added, was ever seeking, ever conversing, in one sense. In 
another place Lavater declares, that ' He who adores an 
' impersonal God, has none ; and without guide or rudder 
' launches on an immense abyss, that first absorbs his powers 

* and next himself.' To which, warm assent from the fervently 
religious Blake : ' Most superlatively beautiful, and most 

* affectionately holy and pure. Would to God all men would 

* consider it ! ' Religious, I say, but far from orthodox ; 
for in one place he would show sin to be * negative not 
positive evil : ' lying, theft, &c, * mere privation of good ; ' 
a favourite idea with him, which, whatever its merit 
as an abstract proposition, practical people would not like 
written in letters of gold on their temples, for fear of 
consequences. 

One of the most prolix of these aphorisms runs, * Take 

* from Luther his roughness and fiery courage, from this man 

* one quality, from another that, from Raffaelle his dryness 
' and nearly hard precision, and from Rubens his supernatural 

* luxury of colours ; detach his oppressive exuberance from 

* each, and you will have something very correct and flat 
' instead,' as it required no conjuror to tell us. Whereon 
Blake, whom I here condense : * Deduct from a rose its red, 
' from a lily its whiteness, from a diamond hardness, from an 
' oak-tree height, from a daisy lowliness, rectify everything 
' in nature, as the philosophers do, and then we shall return 

* to chaos, and God will be compelled to be eccentric in His 

* creation. Oh ! happy philosophers ! Variety does not 
'necessarily suppose deformity. Beauty is exuberant, but 
' if ugliness is adjoined, it is not the exuberance of beauty. 
' So if Raffaelle is hard and dry, it is not from genius, but an 
' accident acquired. How can substance and accident be 

* predicated of the same essence ? Aphorism 47 speaks of 
' the " heterogeneous " in works of Art and Literature, which 
' all extravagance is ; but exuberance is not. * But,' adds 

VOL. I. F 



66 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1788. 

Blake, 'the substance gives tincture to the accident, and 
makes it physiognomic* 

In the course of another lengthy aphorism, the ' knave ' is 
said to be *oiiiy an enthusiast ^ or momefUary fool! Upon 
which Mr. Blake breaks out still more characteristically: 
' Man is the ark of God : the mercy-seat is above upon the 
' ark ; cherubim^uard it on either side, and in the midst is 
' the holy law. M^mk^s either the ark of God or a phantom 
*■ of the earth and water. \ If thou seekest by human policy to 

* guide this ark, rememberrtJzzah — 2 Sam. 6th ch. Knaveries 

* are not human nature ; knaveries are knaveries. This 
' aphorism seems to lack discrimination.' In a similar tone, 
on Aphorism 630, commencing, * A Gody an animal^ a plant, 
' are not companions of man ; nor is the faultless^ — ^then 

* judge with lenity of all,' Blake writes, * It is the God in all 

* that is our companion and friend. For our God Himself 
' says, " You are my brother, my sister, and my mother ; " 
' and St. John, " Whoso dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, 

* and Grod in him." Such an one cannot judge of any but in 

* love, and his feelings will be attractions or repulsions. God 
' is in the lowest effects as well as in the highest causes. He 

* is become a worm that he may nourish the weak. For 

* let it be remembered that creation is God d^cending 

* according to the weakness of man : our Lord is the Word 
' of God, and everything on earth is the Word of God, 
' and in its essence is God.' 

Surely gold-dust may be descried in these notes ; and 
when we remember it is a painter, not a metaphysician, 
who is writing, we can afford to judge them less critically. 
Another characteristic gleaning or two, ere we condudi. 
An ironical maxim, such as ' Take here the grand secret; if 
' not of pleasing all, yet of displeasing none : court mediocrity, 
' avoid originality, and sacrifice to fashion,' meets with the 
hearty response from an unfashionable painter, ' And go to 
hell.' When the Swiss tells him that 'Men cany thdr 

* character not seldom in their pockets : you migfht decide 



AST. 30—31.] MEDITATION : NOTES ON LAVATER. 6y 

* on more than half your acquaintance had you will or right 

* to turn their pockets inside out ; ' the artist candidly 
acknowledges that he ' seldom carries money in his pockets, 
they are generally full of paper,' which we readily believe. 
Towards the close, Lavater drops a doubt that he may have 

* perhaps already offended his readers;' which elicits from 
Blake a final note of sympathy. * Those who are offended 
' with anything in this book, would be offended with the 

* innocence of a child, and for the same reason, becc^use it 

* reproaches him with the errors of acquired folly.' 

Enough of the Annotations on Lavater, which, in fulfilment 
of biographic duty, I have thus copiously quoted ; too 
copiously, the reader may think, for their intrinsic merit. 
To me they seem mentally physiognomic, giving a near view 
of Blake in his ordinary moments at this period. We, 
as through a casually open window, glance into the artist's 
room, and see him meditating at his work, graver in hand. 

Lavater's Aphorisms not only elicited these comments from 
Blake, but set him composing aphorisms on his own account, 
of a far more original and startling character. In Lavater's 
book I trace the external accident to which the form is 
attributable of a remarkable portion — certain 'Proverbs of 
Hell,' as they were waywardly styled — of an altogether re- 
markable book, Tlie Marriage of Heaven and Hell, engraved 
two years later ; the most curious and significant book, perhaps, 
out of many, which ever issued from the unique man's press. 

Turning from the Annotations on Lavater to higher, less 

approachable phases of this original Mind, the indubitably 

INSPIRED aspects of it, it is time to^'note that the practice of 

wrse had, as we saw in 1784, been once more resumed, in a 

higher key and clearer tones than he had yet sounded* 

Design more original and more mature than any he had 

before realized, at once grand, lovely, comprehensible, was 

in course of production. It must have been during the years 

1784 — 88, the Songs and Designs sprang from his creative 

brain, of which another chapter must speak. 

F 2 




CHAPTER IX. 

POEMS OF MANHOOD. 1788— S9. [XT. 31—32.] 

Though Blake's brother Robert had ceased to be with him 
ia the body, he was seldom far absent from the faithful 
visionary in spirit. Down to late age the survivor talked 
much and often of that dear brother ; and in hours of solitude 
and inspiration his form would appear and speak to the poet 
in consolatory dream, in warning or helpful vision. By the 
end of 1788, the first portion of that singularly original and 
significant scries of Poems, by which^of themselves Blake 



MT. 31—32.] SONGS OF INNOCENCE. 69 

established a claim, however unrecognised, on the attention 
of his own and after generations, had been written ; and the 
illustrative designs in colour, to which he wedded them in 
inseparable loveliness, had been executed. The Songs of 
Innocence form the first section of the series he afterwards 
when grouping the two together, suggestively named Songs of 
Innocence and of Experience. But how publish ? for standing 
with the public, or credit with the trade, he had none. 
Friendly Flaxman was in Italy ; the good offices of patronising 
blue-stockings were exhausted. He had not the wherewithal 
to publish on his own account ; and though he could be his 
own engfraver, he could scarcely be his own compositor. 
Long and deeply he meditated. How solve this difficulty 
with his own industrious hands.' How be his own printer 
and publisher? 

The subject of anxious daily thought passed — as anxious 
meditation does with us all — into the domain of dreams and 
(in his case) of visions. In one of these a happy inspiration 
befell, not, of course, without supernatural agency. After 
intently thinking by day and dreaming by night, during long 
weeks and months, of his cherished object, the image of the 
vanished pupil and brother at last blended with it. In a 
vision of the night, the form of Robert stood before him, and 
revealed the wished-for secret, directing him to the technical 
mode by which could be produced a fac-simile of song and 
design. On his rising in the morning, Mrs. Blake went out 
with half-a-crown, all the money they had in the world, and 
of that laid out \s. lod. on the simple materials necessary for 
setting in practice the new revelation. Upon that investment 
of IS. lod. he started what was to prove a principal means of 
support through his future life, — the series of poems and 
writings illustrated by coloured plates, oflen highly finished 
afterwards by hand, — ^which became the most efficient and 
durable means of revealing Blake's genius to the world. 
This method, to which Blake henceforth consistently adhered 
for multiplying his works, was quite an original one. It 



70 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [lySS— 89- 

consisted in a species of engraving in relief both words and 
designs. The verse was written and the designs and mar- 
ginal embellishments outlined on the copper with an im- 
pervious liquid, probably the ordinary stopping-out varnish 
of engravers. Then all the white parts or lights, the re- 
mainder of the plate that is, were eaten away with aquafortis 
or other acid, so that the outline of letter and design was 
left prominent, as in stereotype. From these plates he 
printed off in any tint, yellow, brown, blue, required to be 
the prevailing or ground colour in his fac-similes; red he 
used for the letter-press. The psLge was then coloured up 
by hand in imitation of the original drawing, with more or 
less variety of detail in the local hues. 

He ground and mixed his water-colours himself on a piece 
of statuary marble, after a method of his own, with common 
carpenter's glue diluted, which he had found out, as the 
early Italians had done before him, to be a good binder. 
Joseph, the sacred carpenter, had appeared in vision and 
revealed tAat secret to him. The colours he used were few 
and simple : indigo, cobalt, gamboge, vermilion, Frankfort- 
black freely, ultramarine rarely, chrome n^t at all. These 
he applied with a cameFs-hair brush, not with a sable, which 
he disliked. 

He taught Mrs. Blake to take off the impressions with 
care and delicacy, which such plates signally needed; and 
also to help in tinting them from his drawings with right 
artistic feeling ; in all which tasks she, to her honour, much 
delighted. The size of the plates was small, for the sake 
of economising copper ; something under five inches by three. 
The number of engraved pages in the Songs qf Innoceftei 
alone was twenty-seven. They were done up in boards by 
Mrs. Blake's hand, forming a small octavo ; so that the poet 
and his wife did ever>'thing in making the booky-— writii^f, 
designing, printing, engraving, — everything except manufac- 
turing the paper : the very ink, or colour rather, Uiey did 
make. Never before surely was a man so h'terally the author 



iET.31— 32] SONGS OF INNOCENCE. 71 

of his own book. ' Songs of Innocence, t/ie author and printer 
W. Blake y 1789/ is the title. Copies still occur occasionally ; 
though the two series bound together in one volume, each 
with its own title-page, and a general one added, is the more 
usual state. 

First of the Poems let me speak, harsh as seems their 
divorce from the Design which blends with them, forming 
warp and woof in one texture. It is like pulling up a daisy 
by the roots from the greensward out of which it springs. 
To me many years ago, first reading these weird Songs in 
their appropriate environment of equally spiritual form and 
hue, the effect was as that of an angelic voice singing to 
oaten pipe, such as Arcadians tell of; or, as if a spiritual 
magician were summoning before human eyes, and through a 
human medium, images and scenes of divine loveliness ; and 
in the pauses of the strain we seem to catch the rustling of 
angelic wings. The Golden Age independent of Space or 
Time, object of vague sighs and dreams from many genera- 
tions of struggling humanity — an Eden such as childhood 
sees, is brought nearer than ever poet brought it before. 
For this poet was in assured possession of the Golden Age 
within the chambers of his own mind. As we read, fugitive 
glimpses open, clear as brief, of our buried childhood, of an 
unseen world present, past, to come ; we are endowed with 
new spiritual sight, with unwonted intuitions, bright visitants 
from finer realms of thought, which ever elude us, ever hover 
near. We encounter familiar objects, in unfamiliar, trans- 
figured aspects, simple expression and deep meanings, type 
and antitype. True, there are palpable irregularities, metrical 
licence, lapse of grammar, and even of orthography ; but 
oft^n the sweetest melody, most daring eloqlience of rhythm, 
and what is more, appropriate rhythm. They are unfinislted 
poems : yet would finish have bettered their bold and care- 
less freedom ? Would it not have brushed away the delicate 
bloom } that visible spontaneity, so rare and great a charm, 
the eloquent attribute of our old English ballads and of the 



T2 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [I78»— 89. 

early Songs of all nations. The most deceptively perfect 
wax-model is no substitute for the living flower. The form 
is, in these Songs, a transparent medium of the spiritual 
thought, not an opaque body. * He has dared to venture,' 
writes Malkin, not irrelevantly, *on the ancient simplicity, 
*and feeling it in his own character and manners, has 
succeeded * better than those who have only seen it through 
a glass. 

There is the same divine afflatus as in the Poetical 
Sketches, but fuller : a maturity of expression, despite sur- 
viving negligences, and of thought and motive. The ' Child 
Angel,* as we ventured to call the Poet in earlier years, no 
longer merely sportive and innocently wanton, wears a brow 
of thought ; a glance of insight has passed into 

'A sense sublime 
Of something far more deeply interfused' 

in Nature, a feeling of 'the burthen of the mystery of things'; 
though still possessed by widest sympathies with all that is 
simple and innocent, with echoing laughter, little lamb, a 
flower s blossom, with * emmet wildered and forlorn.' 

These poems have a unity and mutual relationship, the 
influence of which is much impaired if they be read otherwise 
than as a whole. They are given entire in the Second 
Volume, to which I refer my reader, if not of decisively 
unpoetic turn. 

Who but Blake, with his pure heart, his simple exalted 
character, could have transfigured a commonplace meeting of 
Charity Children at St. Paul's, as he has done in the Holy 
Thursday ? A picture at once tender and grand. The bold 
images, by a wise instinct resorted to at the close of the first 
and second stanzas and opening of the third, are in the 
highest degree imaginative ; they are true as only Poetry 
can be. 

How vocal is the poem Springs despite imperfect rhymes. 
From addressing the child, the poet, by a transition not 



^T. 31--32.] SONGS OF INNOCENCE. 73 

infrequent with him, passes out of himself into the child's 
person, showing a chameleon sympathy with childlike feelings. 
Can we not see the little three-year-old prattler stroking the 
white lamb, her feelings made articulate for her ? — Even more 
remarkable is the poem entitled The Lamb, sweet hymn 
of tender infantine sentiment appropriate to that perennial 
image of meekness ; to which the fierce eloquence of The 
Tiger^ in the Songs of Experience, is an antitype. In The 
Lamb the poet again changes person to that of a child. Of 
lyrical beauty, take as a sample The Laughing Song, with its 
happy ring of merry innocent voices. This and The Nurse's 
Song are more in the style of his early poems, but, as we said, 
of far maturer execution. I scarcely need call attention to 
the delicate simplicity of the little pastoral, entitled T/te 
Shepherd: to the picturesqueness in a warmer hue, the de- 
lightful domesticity, the expressive melody of The Echoing 
Green : or to the lovely sympathy and piety which irradiate 
the touching Cradle Song. More enchanting still Js the stir 
of fancy and sympathy which animates The Dream, that 

Did weave a shade o'er my angel-guarded bed; 

of an emmet that had 

Lost her way, 
Where on grass methought I lay. 

Few are the readers, I should think, who can fail to appre- 
ciate the symbolic grandeur of The Little Boy Lost and T/te 
Little Boy Found, or the enigmatic tenderness of the Blossom 
and the Divine Image ; and the verses On Another's Sorrow, 
express some of Blake's favourite religious ideas, his abiding 
notions on the subject of the Godhead, which surely suggest 
the kernel of Christian feeling. A similar tinge of the divine 
colours the lines called Night, with its revelation of angelic 
guardians, believed in with unquestioning piety by Blake, 
who makes us in our turn conscious, as we read, of angelic 
noiseless footsteps. For a nobler depth of religious beauty, 



74 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1788— S9. 

with accordant grandeur of sentiment and language, I know 
no parallel nor hint elsewhere of such a poem as The Little 
Black Boy — 

My mother bore me in the southern wild. 

We may read these poems again and again, and they con- 
tinue fresh as at first There is something unsating in them, 
a perfume as of a growing violet, which renews itself as fast 
as it is inhaled. 

One poem, The Chimney Sweeper^ still calls for special 
notice. This and Holy Thursday are remarkable as an 
anticipation of the daring choice of homely subject, of the 
yet more daringly familiar manner, nay, of the very metre 
and trick of style adopted by Wordsworth in a portion of 
those memorable ' experiments in poetry,' — the Lyrical Bal- 
lads, — in The Reverie of Poor Susan, for instance (not written 
till 1797), the Star Gazers, and The Power of Music (both 
1806). The little Sweep's dream has the spiritual touch 
peculiar to Blake's hand. This poem, I may add, was 
extracted thirty-five years later in a curious little volume 
(1824) of James Montgomery's editing, as friend of the then 
unprotected Climbing Boys. It was entitled, The Chimney 
Sweefet's Friend and Climbing Boy's Album; a miscellany 
of verse and prose, original and borrowed, with illustrations 
by Robert Cruikshank. Charles Lamb, one of the living 
authors applied to by the kind-hearted Sheffield poet, while 
declining the task of rhyming on such a subject, sent a copy 
of this poem from the Songs of Innocence, communicating it 
as "from a very rare and curious little work." At line five, 
* Little Tom Dacre' is transformed, by a sly blunder of 
Lamb's, into * little Tom Toddy.' The poem on the same 
subject in the Songs of Experience, inferior poetically, but in 
an accordant key of gloom, would have been the more 
apposite to Montgomery's volume. 

The tender loveliness of these poems will hardly reappear 
in Blake's subsequent writing. Darker phases of feeling. 



^T. 31—32] SONGS OF INNOCENCE. 75 

more sombre colours, profounder meanings, ruder eloquence, 
characterise the Songs of Experience of five years later. 

In 1789, the year in which Blake's hand engraved the 
Songs of Innocence, Wordsworth was finishing his versified 
Evening Walk on the Goldsmith model ; Crabbe (* Pope in 
worsted stockings,' as Hazlitt christened him), famous six 
years before by his Village^ was publishing one of his minor 
quartos. The Newspaper ; and Mrs. Charlotte Smith, not 
undeservedly popular, was accorded a fifth edition within 
five years, of her Elegiac Sonnets, one or two of which still 
merit the praise of being good sonnets, among the best in a 
bad time. In these years, Hayley, Mason, Hannah More, 
Jago, Downman, Helen Maria Williams, were among the 
active producers of poetry ; Cumberland, Holcroft, Inchbald, 
Burgoyne, of the acting drama of the day ; Peter Pindar, and 
Pasquin Williams, of the satire. 

The designs, simultaneous offspring with the poems, which 
in the most literal sense illuminate the Songs of Innocence, 
consist of poetized domestic scenes. The drawing and 
draperies are grand in style as graceful, though covering few 
inches' space ; the colour pure, delicate, yet in effect rich and 
full. The mere tinting of the text and of the free ornamental 
border often makes a refined picture. The costumes of the 
period are idealized, the landscape given in pastoral and 
symbolic hints. Sometimes these drawings almost suffer 
from being looked at as a book and held close, instead of at 
due distance as pictures, where they become more effective. 
In composition, colour, pervading feeling, they are lyrical to 
the eye, as the Songs to the ear. 

On the whole, the designs to the Songs of Innocence are 
finer as well as more pertinent to the poems ; more closely 
interwoven with them, than those which accompany the 
Softgs of Experience, Of these in their place. 



CHAPTER X. 

BOOKS OF PROPHECY. 1789-90. l^- 32—33.] 

In the same year that the Songs of Innocence 'wex^ published, 
Blake profited by his new discovery to engrave anotljer illus- 
trated poem. It is in a very different strain ; one, however, 
analogous to that running through nearly all his subsequent 
writings, or ' Books,' as he called them. The Book of Tkel 
is a strange mystical allegory, full of tender beauty and 
enigmatic meaning. Thel, youngest of *the Daughters of 
the Seraphim ' (personification of humanity, I infer), is 
afflicted with scepticism, with forebodings of life's brevity 
and nothingness : — 

She in paleness sought the secret air 
To fade away like morning beauty from her mortal day; 
Down by the river of Adona her soft voice is heard. 
And thus her gentle lamentation falls like morning dew. 

As the poem is printed entire in our Second Volume, I will 
now simply give an Argument of it, by way of indicating its 
tenor, and to serve as a bridge for the reader across the 
eddying stream of abstractions which make up this piece 
of poetic mysticism. 

Argument. ^ 

Thel laments her transient life — The Lily of the Valley answers 
her — Pleads her weakness, yet Heaven's favour — Thel urges her own 



MT. 32—33.] THEL. 77 

uselessness — ^A little cloud descends and taketh shape— Shows how 
he weds the evening dew and feeds the flowers of earth — Tells of 
Love and Serviceableness — Thel replies in sorrow still — The Cloud 
invokes the lowly worm to answer her — ^Who appears in the form of 
a helpless child — A dod of clay pities her wailing cry — And shows 
how in her lowliness she blesses and is blessed — She summons Thel 
into her house — ^The grave's gates open — ^Thel, wandering, listens to 
the voices of the ground — Hears a sorrowing voice from her own 
grave-plot — Listens, and flees back. 

The fault of the poem is the occasional tendency to vague- 
ness of motive, to an expression of abstract emotions more 
legitimate for the sister art of music than for poetry, which 
must be definite, however deep and subtle. The tendency 
grew in Blake's after writings and overmastered him. But 
on this occasion the meaning which he is at the pains to 
define, with the beauty of much of the imagery and of the 
pervading sentiment, more than counterbalance any excess 
of the element of the Indefinite, especially when, as in the 
original, the poem is illumined by its own design, lucidly 
expository, harmonising with itself and with the verse it 
illustrates. 

The original quarto consists of seven engraved pages, 
including the title, in size some six inches by four and a 
quarter. Fqur are illustrated by vignettes, the other two 
by ornamental head or tail-piece. The designs — Thel, the 
virgin sceptic, listening to the lily of the valley in the humble 
grass ; to the golden cloud ' reclining on his airy throne ; ' to 
the worm upon her dewy bed ; or kneeling over the personi- 
fied clod of clay, an infant wrapped in lily's leaf; or gazing 
at the embracing clouds — are of the utmost sweetness ; simple, 
expressive, grand ; the colour slight, but pure and tender. 
The mere ornamental part of the title-page, of which the sky 
forms the framework, is a study for spontaneous easy grace 
and unobtrusive beauty. The effect of the whole, poem and 
design together, is as of a wise, wondrous, spiritual dream* 
or angel's reverie. The engraving of the letter-press differs 



*J 



yS LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1789—90. 

from that of the Songs of Innocence,^ the text (in colour red 
as before) being relieved by a white ground, which makes 
the page more legible if less of a picture. I may mention, 
in corroboration of a previous assertion of Stothard's obliga- 
tions as a designer to Blake^ that the copy of Thel, formerly 
Stothard*Sy bears evidence oC familiar use on his part, in 
broken edges, and the marks of a painter's oily fingers. 
These few and simple designs, while plainly original, show 
all the feeling and grace of Stothard's early manner, 
with a tinge of sublimity superadded which was never 
Stothard's. 

In the track of the mystical Book of Thel came in 1790 
the still more mystical Marriage of Heaven and Hell, an 
engraved volume, illustrated in colour, to which I have 
already alluded as perhaps the most curious and significant, 
while it is certainly the most daring in conception and 
gorgeous in illustration of all Blake's works. The title dimly 
suggests an attempt to sound the depths of the mystery of 
Evil, to view it in its widest and deepest relations. But 
further examination shows that to seek any single dominating 
purpose, save a poetic and artistic one, in the varied and 
pregnant fragments of which this wonderful book consists, 
were a mistake. The student of Blake will find in Mr. 
Swinburne's Critical" Essay on Blake all the light that can 
be thrown by the vivid imagination and subtle insight of a 
Poet on this as on the later mystic or ' Prophetic Books.' 

The Marriage of Heaven and HeU opens with, an ' Argument' 
in irregular unrhymed verse : — 

Rintrah roars and shakes hig fires in the burdened air: 
Hungry clouds swag on the deep. 

Once meek and in a perilous path 
The just man kept his course along 
The vale of death. 
Roses are planted where thorns grow, 



^' 32—33] MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL. 79 

And on the barren heath 
^g the honey bees. 

Then the perilous path was planted ; 
And a river and a spring 
On every cliff and tomb ; 
And on the bleached bones 
Red clay brought forth. 

Till the villain left the paths of ease 
To walk in perilous paths, and drive 
The just man into barren climes. 

Now the sneaking serpent walks 
In mild humility, 

And the just man rages in the wilds 
Where lions roam. 

Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdened air; 
Hungry clouds swag on the deep. 

The key-note is more clearly sounded in the following 
detached sentences: — 

Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, 
Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to human ex- 
istence. From these contraries spring what the religious call Good 
and Evil. Good is the passive, that obeys Reason. Evil is the 
active, springing from Energy. Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell. 

T/ie Voice of tlie Devil. 

All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following 
errors : — 

1. That man lias two real existing principles, viz. a Body and 
a Soul. 

2. That Energy, called Evil, is alone from the Body, and that 
Heaven, called Good, is alone from the SouL 

3. That God will torment man in Eternity for following his 
energies. 



80 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1789—90^ 

But the following contraries to these are true: — 

1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul, for that called Body 
is a portion of Soul discerned by the five senses, the chief inlets of 
Soul in this age. 

2. Energy is the only Life, and is from the Body ; and Reason is 
the bound or outward circumference of Energy. 

3. Energy is Eternal Delight 

To this shortly succeeds a series of Proverbs or Aphorisms, 
called ' Proverbs of Hell.' These we give almost entire. 

In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. 

Drive your cart and your plough over the bones of the dead. 

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. 

Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity. 

The cut worm forgives the plough. 

Dip him in the river who loves water. 

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees. 

He whose face gives no light shall never become a star. 

Eternity is in love with the productions of Time. 

The busy bee has no time for sorrow. 

The hours of Folly are measured by the clock, but of Wsdom 
no clock can measure. 

All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap. 

Bring out number, weight, and measure, in a year of dearth. 

The most sublime act is to set another before you. 

If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise. 

Shame is Pride's cloak. 

Excess of sorrow laughs ; excess of joy weeps. 

The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the 
stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too 
great for the eye of man. 

The fox condemns the trap, not himself. 

Joys impregnate, sorrows bring forth. 

Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep. 

The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. 

The selfish smiling fool and the sullen frowning fool shall be 
both thought wise, that they may be a rod. 

What is now proved was once only imagined. 

The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit, watch the roots; the 
lion, the tiger, the horse, the elephant, watch the firuits. 



^«T. 32—33.] MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL. { 8 1 

The cistern contains; the fountain overflows. 

One thought fills immensity. 

Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will 
avoid you. 

Everything possible to be believed is an image of truth. 

The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to 
learn of the crow. 

The fox provides for himself, but God provides for the lion. 

He who has suffered you to impose on him, knows you. 

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction. 

Expect poison from the standing water. 

You never know what is enough, unless you know what is more 
than enough. 

Listen to the fool's reproach; it is a kingly title! 

The eyes of fire ; the nostrils of air ; the mouth of water ; the 
beard of earth. 

The weak in courage is strong in cunning. 

The apple-tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor 
the lion the horse- how he shall take his prey. 

The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest 

IL others had not been foolish, we should be so. 

The soul of sweet delight can never be defiled. 

When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of genius ; lift 
up thy head ! 

One law for the lion and ox is oppression. 

To create a little flower is the labour of ages. 

Damn braces. Bless relaxes. 

The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest 

Prayers plough not ! Praises reap not 1 

Joys laugh not ! Sorrows weep not ! 

As the air to a bird, or the sea to a fish, so is contempt to 
the contemptible. 

The crow wished everything was black, the owl that everything 
was white. 

Exuberance is beauty. 

Improvement makes straight roads, but the crooked roads with- 
out improvement are roads of Genius. 

Where man is not. Nature is barren. 

Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be 
believed. 

Enough 1 or too much. 

VOL. L G 



82 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1789-90. 

The remainder of the book consists of five distinct, but 
kindred prose compositions, not all following consecutively, 
each entitled a ' Memorable Fancy.' Half dream, half alle- 
gory, these wild and strange fragments defy description or 
interpretation. It would hardly occur, indeed, that they were 
allegorical, or that interpretation was a thing to be expected 
or attempted, but for an occasional sentence like the follow- 
ing :-— ' I, in my hand, brought the skeleton of a body which 
in the mill was Aristotle's Analytics: ' and we are sometimes 
tempted to exclaim with the angel who conducts the author 
to the mill: * Thy phantasy has imposed upon me, and thou 
oughtest to be ashamed.' Throughout these 'Memorable 
Fancies,' there is a mingling of the sublime and grotesque 
better paralleled in art than literature — in that Gothic art 
with the spirit of which Blake was so deeply penetrated ; 
where corbels of grinning and distorted faces support solemn 
overarching grandeurs, and quaint monsters lurk in foliaged 
capital or nook. 

In the second ' Memorable Fancy,* of which we give a 
brief sample or two, he sees Isaiah and Ezekiel in a vision : — 

« « « Then I asked : ' Does a firm persuasion that a thing is 
so make it so ? ' 

He replied, 'All poets believe that it does, and in ages of 
imagination this firm persuasion removed mountains ; but many are 
not capable of a firm persuasion of an)rthing.' 

Then Ezekiel said : * The philosophy of the East taught the fint 
principles of human perception ; some nations held one principle for 
the origin and some another ; we of Israel taught that the Poetic 
Genius (as you now call it) was the first principle, and all the others 
merely derivative ; which was the cause of our despising the priests 
and philosophers of other countries, and prophesying that all gods 
would at last be proved to originate in ours, and to be the tributaries 
of the Poetic Genius. It was this that our great poet, King Davidy 
desired so fervently and invoked so pathetically, saying, " By this he 
conquers enemies, and govems kingdoms ; " and we so loved our 
God, that we cursed in His name all the deities of surrounding nations, 
and asserted that they had rebelled. From these opinions, the vulgar 
came to think that all nations would at last be subject to the Jews.' 



XT. 32— 3>] MARRIAGE Q¥ HEATEf ASD HELL. If 



' This,' said he, ' like aH finn penBaBOHS, a eooxe o^ oaas. sor lil 
nations believe the Jein^ code and voi^^ t&e Jews' God^ and-»!i« 
greater subjection can be ? * 

I heard this with some woadkr, aad mam. cn^esi sFf avn 

conviction. 

• • • • • 

If the doors of perceptioD were ckaiwcd, twaf^mg wwdd ss^^est 
to man as it is — infinite. 

For man has closed himself up, till be sees all diksgt dmso^ 
narrow chinks of his cavern. 

A Memorable Fatuy. 

I was in a printing-house in hell, and saw the method in whkh 
knowledge is transmitted from generation to generatiofL 

In the first chamber was a dragon-man, clearing aws^ the nibbisli 
from a cave's mouth ; within, a number of dragons were hcAywii^ 
the cave. 

In the second chamber was a viper folding roond the rock and 
the cave, and others adorning it with gold, silver, and preciocis 
stones. 

In the third chamber was an eag^e with wings and feathers of air ; 
he caused the inside of the cave to be infinite. Around, were 
numbers of eagle-like men, who built palaces in the immense cli& 

In the fourth chamber were lions oi flaming fire rsi^ng around and 
melting the metals into living fluids. 

In the fifth chamber were unnamed forms, which cast the metals 
into the expanse. 

There they were received by men who occupied the sixth cham- 
ber, and took the forms of books, and were ranged in librarieii. 

The Giants who formed this world into its sensual txiMtncMf and 
now seem to live in it in chains, are, in truth, the causes of its life 
and the sources of all activity, but the chains are the cunning of 
weak and tame minds which have power to resist energy ; according 
to the proverb, the weak in courage is strong in cunning. 

Thus, one portion of being is the Prolific, the other the Devouring, 
To the devourer it seems as if the producer was in his chains, but it 
is not so ; he only takes portions of existence and fancies that the 
whole. 

But the Prolific would cease to be prolific, unless the devourer, as 
a sea, received the excess of his delights. * 

• • • • • 

G 2 



84 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1789—90. 

A Memorable Fancy. 

An Angel came to me, and said, * O pitiable, foolish young man 1 
O horrible — O dreadful state ! Consider the hot burning dungeon 
thou art preparing for thyself to all eternity, to which thou art going 
in such career/ I said, ' Perhaps you will be willing to show me my 
eternal lot, and we will contemplate together upon it, and see whether 
your lot or mine is most desirable.' 

So he took me through a stable and through a church, and down 
into the church vault, at the end of which was a mill. Through the 
mill we went, and came to a cave : down the winding cavern we 
groped our tedious way till a void, boundless as a nether sky, ap- 
peared beneath us, and we held by the roots of trees, and hung over 
this immensity. But I said, ' If you please, we will commit our- 
selves to this void and see whether Providence is here also ; if you 
will not, I will ! ' But he answered, * Do not presume, O young 
man ; but as we here remain, behold thy lot, which will soon appear 
wh^n the darkness passes away.' 

So I remained with him, sitting in the twisted root of an oak ; he 
was suspended in a fungus which hung with the head downward into 
the deep. 

By degrees we beheld the infinite Abyss, fiery as the smoke of a 
burning city. Beneath us, at an immense distance, was the sun, 
black but shining. Round it were fiery tracks, on which revolved 
vast spiders crawling after their prey, which flew or rather swam in 
the infinite deep, in the most terrific shapes of animals sprung firom 
corruption ; and the air was full of them, and seemed composed of 
them. These are Devils, and are called Powers of the Air. I now 
asked ray companion which was my eternal lot ? he said, * Between 
the black and the white spiders.' 

But now from between the black and white spiders, a cloud and 
fire burst and rolled through the deep, blackening all beneath ; so 
that the nether deep grew black as a sea, and rolled with a terrible 
noise. Beneath us was nothing now to be seen but a black tempest ; 
till, looking east between the clouds and the waves, we saw a cataract 
of blood mixed with fire, and not many stones' throw firom us ap- 
peared and sunk again the scaly fold of a monstrous serp>ent At 
last to the east, distant about three degrees, appeared a fiery crest 
above the waves. Slowly it reared like a ridge of golden rocks, till 
we discovered two globes of crimson fire, from which the sea fled 
away in clouds of smoke, and now we saw it was the head of 



iBT. 32— 33] MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL. g'^ 

Leviathan. His forehead was divided into streaks of green and 
purple, like those on a tiger's forehead. Soon we saw his mouth and 
red gills hang just above the raging foam, tinging the black deep 
with beams of blood, advancing towards us with all the fury of a 
spiritual existence. 

My friend the Angel climbed up from his station into the mill. I 
remained alone, and then this appearance was no more ; but I found 
myself sitting on a pleasant bank beside a river by moonlight, 
hearing a harper who sung to the harp, and his theme was, ' The 
man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds 
reptiles of the mind.* 

But I arose, and sought for the mill, and there I found my Angel ; 

* ♦ ♦ but I by force suddenly caught him in my arms, and flew 

westerly through the night, till we were elevated above the earth's 

shadow. Then I flung myself with him directly into the body of 

the sun. Here I clothed myself in white, and, taking in my hand 

Swedenborg's volumes, sunk from the glorious clime, and passed all 

the planets till we came to Saturn. Here I stayed to rest, and then 

leaped into the void between Saturn and the flxed stars. 

« « « « « 

Soon we saw seven houses of brick ; one we entered ; in it were 

a number of monkeys, baboons, and all of that species, chained by 

the middle, grinning and snatching at one another, but withheld by 

the shortness of their chains. However, I saw that they sometimes 

grew numerous, and then the weak were caught by the strong, and 

with a grinning aspect devoured, by plucking ofl" first one limb and 

then another, till the body was left a helpless trunk. This, after 

grinning and kissing it with seeming fondness, they devoured too ; 

and here and there I saw one savourily picking the flesh off his own 

tail. As the stench terribly annoyed us both, we went into the mill, 

and I in my hand brought a skeleton of a body, which in the mill 

was Aristotle's Analytics. So the Angel said : * Thy phantasy has 

imposed upon me, and thou oughtest to be ashamed.' 

I answered, ' We impose on one another, and it is but lost time to 
converse with you, whose works are only Analytics.' 

Swedenborg boasts that what he writes is new ; though it is only 

the contents or index of already published books. 

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ * 

Any man of mechanical talents may, from the writings of Paracelsus 

or Jacob Behmen, produce ten thousand .^volumes of equal value 

with Swedenborg's, and from those of Dante or Shakespeare an 

infinite number. 



86 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1789—90. 

But when he has done this, let him not say that he knows better 
than his master, for he only holds a candle in sunshine. 

The power of these wild utterances is enhanced to the 
utmost by the rich adornments of design and colour in which 
they are set — design as imaginative as the text, colour which 
has the lustre of jewels. 

A strip of azure sky surmounts, and of land divides, the 
words of the title-page, leaving on each side scant and baleful 
trees, little else than stem and spray. Drawn on a tiny scale, 
lies a corpse, and one bends over it. Flames burst forth 
below and slant upward across the page, gorgeous with every 
hue. In their very core two spirits rush together and embrace. 
These beautiful figures appear to have suggested to Flaxman 
the delicately executed bas-relief on CoUins's monument. 

In the second design, to the right of the page, there runs 
up an almost lifeless tree. A man clinging to the thin stem, 
and holding by a branch, reaches its only cluster to a woman 
standing below. Distant are three figures reposing on the 
ground. At the top of the third, a woman with outspread 
arms is borne away on flames — 

'like a creature native and indued 
Unto that element;' 

beneath, two figures are rushing away from a female lying on 
the earth. 

In the next, the sun sets over the sea in blood. A spirit, 
grasping a child, walks on the waves. Another, in the midst 
of fire, would fain rush to her, but an iron link clinches his 
ankle to the rock. 

The fifth resembles the catastrophe of Phaeton, save that 
there is but one horse. Spires of flame are already kindling 
below. 

Under the text of the sixth, an accusing demon, with bat- 
like wings, points fiercely to a scroll — a great parchment scroll 
across his knees. A figure sits on each side recording. 



.«r. 3«— 33-] MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL. 8/ 

In the next design we^have a little island of the sea, where 
an infant springs to its mother's bosom. From the birth-cleft 
ground a spirit has half emei^ed. Below, with outstretched 
arms and hoary beard, an awful ancient man rushes at you, as 
it were, out of the page. 

At the top of the fourteenth page a spirit, with streaming 
locks, extends her arms across, pointing hither and thither. 
She hovers, poised over a corpse, which looks as if * laid out/ 
the arms straight by the sides ; helpless, uncoffined ; flames 
are rolling onward to consume it. 

The ninth design is of an eagle flying and gazing upwards : 
his talons gripe a long snake trailing and writhing. Both are 
flecked with gold, and coruscate as from a light within. 

The tenth presents a huddled group of solemn figures 
seated on the ground. The next is a surging of mingled fire, 
water, and blood, wherein roll the volumes of a huge double- 
fanged serpent, his crest erect, his jaws wide open. 

In the twelfth, the disembodied spirit, luminous and radiant, 
sits lightly upon its late prison house, gazing upwards whither 
it is about to soar. It is the same figure as that in Blair s 
Grave^ where you see also the natural body, bent with years, 
tottering into the dark doorway beneath. 

The thirteenth and last design gives Blake's idea of Nebu- 
chadnezzar in the wilderness. Mr. Palmer tells me that he 
has old German translations of Cicero and Petrarch, in which, 
among some wild and original designs, almost the very same 
figure occurs ; but that many years had elapsed after making 
his own design before Blake saw the woodcut. 

The designs are highly finished : Blake had worked upon 
them so much, and illuminated them so richly, that even the 
letterpress seems as if done by hand. The ever-fluctuating 
colour, the spectral pigmies rolling, flying, leaping among the 
letters ; the ripe bloom of quiet corners, the living light and 
bursts of flame, the spires and tongues of fire vibrating with 
the full prism, make the page seem to move and quiver within 
its boundaries, and you lay the book down tenderly, as if you 



LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 



(1789-90. 



bad been handling something sentient. A picture has been 
said to be midway between a thing and a thought ; so in 
these books over which Blake had long brooded, with his 
brooding of fire, the very paper seems to come to life as 
you gaze upon it — not with a mortal life, but with a life 
indestructible, whether for good or evil. 

The volume is an octavo, consisting of twenty-four pages ; 
all of them illuminated. In some copies the letters are red, 
in others a golden brown. The engraved page is about six 
inches by four. Occasionally a deep margin was left so as to 
form a quarto. Lord Houghton possesses a fine quarto, Mr. 
Linnell an octavo copy. 

The subjoined outline of Nebuchadnezzar is not copied 
from the design just spoken of in the Marriage of Heaven and 
Hell, but is a facsimile of what was probably the original 
sketch for this, and is taken from a MS. volume by Blake, of 
rare interest and value, in the possession of Mr. Rossetti. This 
book contains, besides rough sketches and rough draughts, 
afterwards elaborated into finished designs and poems, much 
that exists in no other form. Pie kindness of the owner 
enables me freely to draw from this source. 




CHAPTER XL 

BOOKSELLER JOHNSON'S. 1791—92. [.ct. 34—35.] 

These were prolific years with Blake, both in poetry and 
design. In 1 791 he even found a publisher, for the first and 
last time in his life, in Johnson of St. Paul's Churchyard, to 
whom Fuseli had originally introduced him, and for whom he 
had already engraved. Johnson in this year — the same in 
which he published Mary Wollstonecraffs Rights of Women 
— issued, without Blake's /lame, and unillustrated, a thin 
quarto, entitled The French Revolution, a Poem in Seven 
Books. Book the First. One Shilling. Of the Revolution 
itself, only the first book, ending with the taking of the 
Bastille, had as yet been enacted. In due time the re- 
mainder followed. Those of Blake's epic already written were 
never printed, events taking a different turn from the 
anticipated one. 

The French Revolution, though ushered into the world by 
a regular publisher, was no more successful than the privately 
printed Poetical Sketches, or the privately engraved Songs of 
Innocence, in reaching the public, or even in getting noticed 
by the monthly reviewers. It finds no place in their indices, 
nor in the catalogue of the Museum Library. 

In this year Johnson employed Blake to design and engrave 
six plates to a series of Tales for Children, in the then pre- 
vailing Berquin School, by Johnson's favourite and proti^g^e. 



go UFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [>79i. 

Mary WoUstonecraft ; tales new and in demand in the autumn 
of 1791, now unknown to the bookstalls. 'Original stories' 
they are entitled, ' from real life, with conversations calcu- 
' lated to regulate the affections and form the mind to truth 



'and goodness.' The designs, naive and rude, can hardly be 
pronounced a successful competition with Stothard, though 
traces of a higher feeling are visible in the graceful female 
forms — benevolent heroine, or despairing, famishing peasant 
group. The artist evidently moves in constraint, and the 



MT. 34.] BOOKSELLER JOHNSON'S. 9 1 

accessories of these domestic scenes are as simply generalised 
as a child's : result of an inobservant eye for such things. 
They were not calculated to obtain Blake employment in a 
capacity in which more versatile hands and prettier designers, 
such as Bumey and Corbould (failing Stothard), were far 
better fitted to succeed. The book itself never went to a 
second edition. More designs appear to have been made for 
the little work than were found available, and some of the best 
were among the rejected. It may interest the reader to have 
a sample of him in this comparatively humble department. 
Possessing most of the original drawings, we therefore give 
a print from one. There is, however, a terrible extremity 
of voiceless despair in the upturned face of the principal 
figure which, perhaps, no hand but that of him who con- 
ceived it could accurately reproduce. He also re-engraved 
for Johnson some designs by Chodowiecki to a book of pina- 
fore precepts, called Elements of Moralityy translated from 
the German of Salzmann by Mary Wollstonecraft ; ^ and 
among casual work engraved a plate for Darwin's Botanic 
Garden — The Fertilization of Egypt — after Fuseli. 

Bookseller Johnson was a favourable specimen of a class 
of booksellers and men now a tradition : an open-hearted 
tradesman of the eighteenth century, of strict probity, simple 
habits, liberal in his dealings, living by his shop and in it, 
not at a suburban mansion. He was, for nearly forty years, 
Fuseli's fast and intimate friend, his first and best ; the kind 
patron of Mary Wollstonecraft, and of many another. He 
encouraged Cowper over The Task, after the first volume 
of Poems had been received with indifference ; and when The 
Task met its sudden unexpected success, he righteously 
pressed 1,000/. on the author, although both this and the 
previous volume had been assigned to him for nothing — as an 
equivalent, that is, for the bare cost of publication. To 
Blake, also, Johnson was friendly, and tried to help him as 
far as he could help so unmarketable a talent. 

* Notts and QttfrifSy June 19, 1880. 



92 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1791. 

In Johnson's shop — for booksellers* shops were places of 
resort then with the literary — Blake was, a^ this date, in the 
habit of meeting a remarkable coterie. The bookseller gave, 
moreover, plain but hospitable weekly dinners at his house, 
No. 72, St. Paul's Churchyard, in a little quaintly-shaped 
upstairs-room, with walls not at right angles, where his guests 
must have been somewhat straitened for space. Hither came 
Drs. Price and Priestley, and occasionally Blake ; hither 
friendly, irascible Fuseli ; hither precise doctrinaire Godwin, 
whose Political Justice Johnson will, in 1793, publish, giving 
700/. for the copyright. Him, the author of the Songs of 
Innocence got on ill with, and liked worse. Here, too, he met 
formal stoical Holcroft, playwright, novelist, translator, literary 
man-of-all-work, who had written verse * to order ' for our 
old friend The Wits' Magazine. Seven years hence he will 
be promoted to the Tower, and be tried for high treason with 
Hardy, Thelwall, and Home Tooke, and one day will write 
the best fragment of autobiography in the language : a man 
of very varied fortunes. Here hard-headed Tom Paine, ' the 
rebellious needleman : ' Mary Wollstonecraft also, who at 
Johnson's table commenced her ineffectual flirtation with 
already wedded, cynical Fuseli, their first meeting occurring 
here in the autumn of 1790. These and others of very 
* advanced ' political and religious opinions, theoretic repub- 
licans and revolutionists, were of the circle. The First Part 
of Tlie Rights of Man had been launched on an applauding 
and indignant world, early in 1791 ; Johnson, whom the MS. 
had made the author's friend, having prudently declined to 
publish it though he was Priestley's publisher. A few years 
hence their host, despite his caution, will, for his liberal 
sympathies, receive the honour of prosecution from a good 
old habecLS'CorpuS'^\x&^t.n^\w^ Government ; and, in 1798, be 
fined and imprisoned in the King's Bench for selling a copy 
of Gilbert Wakefield's Reply to ttu Bishop of Llandaff's Ad- 
dresSy — a pamphlet which every other bookseller in town sold, 
and continued to sell, with impunity. While in prison he still 



^«T. 34.] BOOKSELLER JOHNSON'S. 93 

gave his weekly literary dinners — in the Marshal's house 
instead of his own; Fuseli remaining staunch to his old 
friend under a cloud. 

Blake was himself an ardent member of the New School, a 
vehement republican and sympathiser with the Revolution, 
hater and contemner of kings and king-craft And like most 
reformers of that era, — when the eighteenth century dry-rot 
had well-nigh destroyed the substance of the old English 
Constitution, though the anomalous caput fnortuum of it was 
still extolled as the * wisest of systems,' — he may have even 
gone the length of despising the * Constitution.' Down to his 
latest days Blake always avowed himself a * Liberty Boy,' a 
faithful 'Son of Liberty; 'and would jokingly urge in self- 
defence that the shape of his forehead made him a republican. 

* I can't help being one,' he would assure Tory friends, * any 

* more than you can help being a Tory : your forehead is larger 

* above ; mine, on the contrary, over the eyes.' To him, 
at this date, as to ardent minds everywhere, the French 
Revolution was the herald of the Millennium, of a new age 
of light and reason. He courageously donned the famous 
symbol of liberty and equality — the bonnet-rouge — in open 
day, and philosophically walked the streets with the same 
on his head. He is said to have been the only one of the set 
who had the courage to make that public profession of faith. 
Brave as a lion at heart was the meek spiritualist. Decorous 
Godwin, Holcroft, wily Paine, however much they might 
approve, paused before running the risk of a Church-and- 
King mob at their heels. All this was while the Revolution, 
if no longer constitutional, still continued muzzled ; before, 
that is, the Days of Terror, in September '92, and subsequent 
defiance of kings and of humanity. When the painter heard 
of these September doings he tore off his white cockade, and 
assuredly never wore the red cap again. Days of humiliation 
for English sympathisers and republicans were beginning. 

Though at one with Paine, Godwin, Fuseli and the others 
as to politics, he was a rebel to their theological or anti- 



94 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1792. 

theological tenets. Himself a heretic among the orthodox, 
here among the infidels he was a saint, and staunchly defended 
Christianity — ^the spirit of it — against these strangely assorted 
disputants. 

In 1792 the artist proved, as he was wont to relate, the 
means of saving Paine from the vindictive clutches of ex- 
asperated *friend3 of order.* Early in that year Paine had 
published his Second Part of Tke Rights of Man. A few 
months later, county and corporation addresses against 
'seditious publications' were got up. The Government 
(Pitt's) answered the agreed signal by issuing a proclamation 
condemnatory of such publications, and commenced an action 
for libel against the author of The Rights of Man^ which was 
to come off in September ; all this helping the book itself 
into immense circulation. The ' Friends of Liberty * held 
their meetings too, in which strong language was used. In 
September, a French deputation announced to Paine that 
the Department of Calais had elected him member of 
the National Convention. Already as an acknowledged 
cosmopolitan and friend of man, he had been declared a 
citizen of France by the deceased Assembly. One day in this 
same month, Paine was giving at Johnson's an idea of the 
inflammatory eloquence he had poured fourth at a public 
meeting of the previous night. Blake, who was present, 
silently inferred from the tenor of his report that those in 
power, now eager to lay hold of noxious persons, would 
certainly not let slip such an opportunity. On Paine's rising 
to leave, Blake laid his hands on the orator's shoulder, saying, 
' You must not go home, or you are a dead man ! ' and hurried 
him off on his way to France, whither he was now, in any case 
bound, to take his seat as French legislator. By the time 
Paine was at Dover, the officers were in his house or, as his 
biographer Mr. Cheetham designates it, his ' lurking hole in 
the purlieus of London ; ' and some twenty minutes after the 
Custom House officials at Dover had turned over his slender 
baggage with, as he thought, extra malice, and he had set sail 



i€T. 35.] BOOKSELLER JOHNSON'S. 95 

for Calais, an order was received from the Home Office to 
detaia him. England never saw Tom Paine again. New 
perils awaited him : Reign of Terror and near view of the 
guillotine — an accidentally open door and a chalk mark on 
the wrong side of it proving his salvation. But a no less 
serious one had been narrowly escaped from the English 
Tories. Those were hanging days I Blake, on this occasion, 
showed greater sagacity than Paine, whom, indeed, Fuseli 
affirmed to be more ignorant of the common affairs of life 
than himself even. Spite of unworldliness and visionary 
faculty, Blake never wanted for prudence and sagacity in 
ordinary matters. 

Early in this September died Blake's mother, at the age of 
seventy, and was buried in Bunhill Fields on the pth. She is a 
shade to us, alas I in all senses: for of her character, or even her 
person, no tidings survive. Blake's associates in later years 
remember to have heard him speak but rarely of either father 
or mother, amid the frequent allusions to his brother Robert. 

At the beginning of the year (February 23rd, 1792) had 
died the recognised leader of English painters, Sir Joshua 
Reynolds, whom failing eyesight had for some time debarred 
from the exercise of his art. He was borne, in funeral pomp, 
from his house in Leicester Fields to Saint Paul's, amid the 
regrets of the great world, testified by a mourning train of 
ninety coaches, and by the laboured panegyric of Burke. 
Blake used . to tell of an interview he had once had with 
Reynolds, in which our neglected enthusiast found the 
originator of a sect in art to which his own was so hostile, very 
pleasant personally, as most found him. ' Well, Mr. Blake,' 
blandly remarked the President, who, doubtless, had heard 
strange accounts of his interlocutor's sayings and doings, 
* I hear you despise our art of oil-painting.' * No, Sir Joshua, 
I don't despise it ; but I like fresco better.* 

Sir Joshua's style, with its fine taste, its merely earthly 
graces and charms of colour, light, and shade, was an 
abomination to the poetic visionary — 'The Whore of Babylon' 



96 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1792. 

and 'Antichrist/ metaphorically speaking. For, as it has 
been said, very earnest original artists make ill critics : of 
feeble sympathy with alien schools of feeling, they can no 
more be eclectic in criticism than, to any worthy result, in 
practice. Devout sectaries in art hate and contemn those of 
opposite artistic faith with truly religious fervour. I have 
heard of an eminent living painter in the New School, who, 
on his admiration being challenged for a superlative example 
of Sir Joshua's graceful, generalizing hand, walked up to it, 
pronounced an emphatic word of disgust, and turned on his 
heel : such bigoted mortals are men who paint ! 

It was hardly in flesh and blood for the unjustly despised 
author of the Songs of Innocence, who had once, as Allan 
Cunningham well says, thought, and not perhaps unnaturally, 
that 'he had but to sing beautiful songs, and draw grand 
designs, to become great and famous,' and in the midst of 
his obscurity feeling conscious of endowments of imagination 
and thought, rarer than those fascinating gifts of preception 
and expression which so readily won the world's plaudits 
and homage ; it was hardly possible not to feel jealous, and 
as it were injured, by the startling contrast of such fame and 
success as Sir Joshua's and Gainsborough's. 

Of this mingled soreness and antipathy we have curious 
evidence in some MS. notes Blake subsequently made in his 
copy of Sir Joshua's Discourses, Struck by their singularity, 
one or two of Blake's admirers in later years transcribed 
these notes. To Mr. Palmer I am indebted, among many 
other courtesies, for a copy of the first half of them. 

* This man was here,' commences the indignant com- 
mentator, *to depress Art: this is the opinion of William 

* Blake. My proofs of this opinion are given in the following 
' notes. Having spent the vigour of my youth and genius 

* under the oppression of Sir Joshua, and his gang of cunning, 
' hired knaves — without employment and, as much as could 

* possibly be without bread, — the reader must expect to read, 
' in all my remarks on these books, nothing but indignation 



ATP. 35-] 



-'.-« 



BOOKSELLER lOHNSON S. 



97 



'and resentment. While Sir Joshua was rolling in riches, 
' Barry was poor and unemployed, except by his own energy ; 

* Mortimer was called a madman, and only portrait-painting 
' was applauded and rewarded by the rich and greaL Re}7iolds 

* and Gaindx>rongfa blotted and blurred one against the other, 
'and divided all the English world between them. Fuseli, 
' indignsmt, almost hid himsel£ I AM HID.' 

Always excepting the favoured portrait-painters, these 
were, indeed, cold days for the unhappy British artist — the 
historical or poetic artist above all. Times have strangely 
altered within living memory. The case is now reversed. 
One can but sympathise ^nth the above touching outburst ; 
and Blake rarely complained aloud of the world's ill usage, 
extreme as it was: one can but sympathise, I say, even 
while cherishii^ the warmest love and admiration for Sir 
Joshua's and Gainsborough's delightful art The glow of 
sunset need not blind us to the pure light of Hesperus. 
Admiration of a fashionable beauty, with her Watteau-like 
grace, should not dazzle the eye to exclusion of the nobler 
grace of Raphael or the Antique. 

Of these notes more hereafter. 




VOL. L 



H 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE GATES OF PARADISE, AMERICA, btc. 1793. [^t. 36.] 

In 1793, Blake quitted Poland Street, after five years' resi- 
dence there. The now dingy demirep street, one in which 
Shelley lodged in 18 11, after his expulsion from Oxford, 
had witnessed the production of the Songs of Innocence and 
other Poetry and Design of a genus unknown, before or since, 
jto that permanently foggy district From the neighbour- 
hood of his birth he removed across Westminster Bridge 
to Lambeth. There he will remain other seven years, and 
produce no less an amount of strange and original work. 
Hercules Buildings is the new abode ; a row of houses which 
had sprung up since his boyish rambles. 

Within easy reach of the centre of London on one side, the 
favourite Dulwich strolls of early years were at hand on the 
other. Hercules Buildings, stretching dis^onally between the 
Kennington Road and Lambeth Palace, was then a street of 
modest irr^ular sized houses, from one to three stories high, 
with fore-courts or little gardens in front, in the suburban 
style ; a street indeed only for half its length, the remainder 
being a single row, or terrace. No. 13, Blake's, was among 
the humbler, one-storied houses, on the right hand side as 
you go from the Bridge to the Palace. It had a wain- 
scoted parlour, pleasant low windows, and a narrow strip of 
real garden behind, wherein grew a fine vine. A lady who, 
as a girl, used with her elders to call on the artist here, telk 
me Blake would on no account prune this vine, having a 



II -» 



-CT. 3fc^ THE GATT^S OT TfiJiAlISS^ Qi 

wraxtg^ SDfl .iiiniHl iiia] in unuit todsf : anc Ite 

iir lure B iimmiftiii zmr of i£«ivs&. 




garden giouud azsd £ehl. 

clean, nevi^r-jnolt lioiacs. Isr all ai^Kiiit anf scar 
and nxxtar vas sprcazSJng erea xhrn Ai nark.. Ti'ai:^ inrMzrr 
out over gardens tcpvards T^rnW^rVi Palary anr tiK: Ttgnrtrs 
seen betm t x : ii gaps oa Sran^ale WiJk, — Frry s tinm* «. i:^ 
years later. Tbe city aiul toscts oif Wrgm^irffifr r/insgii tii*^ 
prospect beyond the lircr, on viiose sxzr^ce saHin^ iirr? -vsrr 
then pl>^ing once or tr^ce a day. Vaizxiiall Garnrnf Izj haib'' 
a mile to the left ; Dulvicii zsd Peddxam HIk w'rt^UTi tisw 
to the south-west. The street has snce bees parth- rriiij^ . 
partly re-named ; the vfaole beca me now ssx&d and aiiZ} ' . 
At the back of what was Blake^s side has axisen a row z£ iZ- 
drained, one-storied tenements bestrides by the arrhr? cc i^ 
South Western Raflway; while the adjaccct msin rraas 
grimy and hopeless lookup, stretch ooit ihm long etzis 
towards further mile on mUe of scbozb, — Xevingtoc, 
Kennington, BrixtcHi. 

In Hercules Buildings Blake engraired asd * pizblisiies! ' — 
May, 1793, adding at the foot of the tftle-page Johnson's 
name to his own — The GaUs of Paradise; a singularh- 
beautiful and characteristic volume, pre-eminently marked 
by significance and simplicity. It is a little foolscap octavo, 
printed according to his usual method, but not coloured ; con- 
taining seventeen plates of emblems, accompanied by verse, 
with a title or motto to each plate For Children^ the title 
runs, or, as some copies have it. For the Sexes. TJu Gates of 
Paradise — * a sort of devout dream, equally wild and lovely,' 
Allan Cunningham happily terms it There is little in art 
which speaks to the mind directly and pr^nantly as do these 
few, simple Designs, emblematic of so much which could 
never be imprisoned in words, yet of a kind more allied to 
literature than to art. It is plain, on looking at this little 
volume alone, from whom Flaxman and Stothard borrowed. 

H 2 

^5i 



lOO LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i793- 

Hints of more than one design of theirs might be found in it; 
And Blake's designs have, I repeat, the look of originals. A 
shock as of something wholly fresh and new, these typical 
compositions give us. 

The verses at the commencement elucidate, to a certain 
extent, the intention of the Series, embodying an ever 
recurrent canon of Blake's Theology : — 

Mutual forgiveness of each vice. 
Such are the Gates of Paradise, 
Against the Accuser's chief desire, 
Who walked among the stones of fire. 
Jehovah's fingers wrote The Law: 
He wept ! then rose in zeal and awe, 
And in the midst of Sinai's heat. 
Hid it beneath His Mercy Seat. 

O Christians ! Christians ! tell me why 
You rear it on your altars high? 

* What is man ? ' — the frontispiece significantly inquires. 

To the Gates of Paradise their author in some copies added 
what many another Book of his would have profited by, — the 
Keys of the Gates, in sundr>' wild lines of rudest verse, which 
do not pretend to be poetry, but merely to tag the artist's 
ideas with rhyme, and are themselves a little obscure, though 
they do help one to catch the prevailing motives. For which 
reason they shall here accompany our samples of the 
'emblems.' The numbers prefixed to the lines refer them 
to the plates which they arc severally intended to explain. 

T/ie Keys of the Gates, 

The Caterpillar on the Leaf 
Reminds thee of thy Mother's Grief 

1 My Eternal Man set in Repose, 
The Female from his darkness rose ; 
And she found me beneath a Tree, 

A Mandrake, and in her Veil hid me. 
Serpent reasonings us entice, 
Of Good and Evil, Virtue, Vice. 

2 Doubt self-jealous, WatVy folly, 



^T. 36.] THE GATES OF PARADISE. lOI 

3 Struggiiiig through Earth's Melancholy. 

4 Naked in Air, m Shame and Fear, 

5 Blind in Fire, with Shield and Spear, 
Two Horrid Reasoning Cloven Fictions, 
In Doubt which is Self Contradiction, 
A dark Hermaphrodite I stood, — 
Rational Truth, Root of Evil and Good. 
Round me, flew the flaming sword; 
Round her, snowy Whirlwinds roar'd. 
Freezing her Veil, the mundane shell. 

6 I rent the veil where the Dead dwell : 
When weary Man enters his Cave, 
He meets his Saviour in the Grave. 
Some find a Female Garment there. 
And some a Male, woven with care. 
Lest the Sexual Garments sweet 
Should grow a devouring Winding-sheet. 

7 One Dies 1 Alas ! the living and dead ! 
One is slain ! and one is fled I 

8 In vainglory hatched and nurs'd 
By double spectres, self accurs'd 

My Son ! my Son ! thou treatest me 
But as I have instructed the^. 

9 On the shadows of the Moon, 
Climbing thro' night's highest noon : 

10 In Time's Ocean falling, drown 'd : 

11 In Aged Ignorance profound. 
Holy and cold, I clipp'd the Wings 
Of all Sublunary Things : 

12 And in depths of icy Dungeons 
Closed the Father and the Sons. 

13 But when once I did descry 

The Immortal man that cannot Die, 

14 Thro' evening shades I haste away 
To close the labours of my Day. 

15 The Door of Death I open found, 

And the Worm weaving in the Ground ; 

16 Thou'rt my Mother, from the Womb ; 
Wife, Sister, Daughter, to the Tomb: 
Weaving to Dreams the Sexual Strife, 
And weeping over the Web of Life. 



I02 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i793- 

In one copy which I have seen, under No. 4 are inscribed 
the words — 

On cloudy doubts and reasoning cares. 

Last follows an epilogue, or postscript, which perhaps 
explains itself, addressed 

To the Accuser, wlio is the God of this World, 

Truly, my Satan, thou art but a dunce, 

And dost not know the gannent from the man; 

Every harlot was a virgin once. 

Nor canst thou ever change Kate into Nan. 

Though thou art worshipped by the names divine 

Of Jesus and Jehovah, thou art still 

The Son of Mom in weary Night's decline. 

The lost traveller's dream under the hilL 

In this year, by the way, the first volume of a more famous 
poet, but a much less original volume than Blake's first, — the 
Descriptive Sketclies of Wordsworth, followed by the Evening 
Walk, — were published by Johnson, of St. Paul's Churchyard. 
Neither reached a second edition ; but by 1807, when the 
Lyrical Ballads had attracted admirers here and there, they 
had, according to De Quincey, got out of print, and scarce. 

Other engraved volumes, more removed from ordinary 
sympathy and comprehension than the Gates of Parculise, 
were issued in the same year : dreamy * Books of Prophecy ' 
following in the wake of the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. 
First came Visions of tlie Daughters of Albion, a folio volume 
of Designs and rhymless verse, printed in colour. 

The eye sees more than the heart knows 

is the key-note struck in the first page, to which follows the 
Argument : — 

I loved Theotormon, 

And I was not ashamed ; 

I trembled in my virgin fears, 

And I hid in Lcutha's vale. 



i€T. 36.] VISIONS or THE DAUGHTERS OF ALBION. 

I plncked Leudiai's flower. 
And I rose up from die vole: 
But die tenible dnmders sore 
MjT ?irgiii ma&de in. twain. 



103 



. _ \ 



\ 




The poem partakes ot tic aame delicarg x.y^,ii '^.^nr; \ 
Thel, but tends also towarda the ino>herftnce r^ -\\tt v- ^ncr . 
which immediately follow^tti it. Of tiie former -.ua;it:.^r; V-^ 
commencement may be quTtted m an ioAtanc-* — 

Enslaved, the dau^tcrs of Alcinn ▼eep, 1 T-^r.* ,i.ng A.v.iv.r:*'.^''^ 
Upon their mountains ; in their iiilev^ «^:hs trinrar.-: AA^err-* 

For the soft soul of America, — Orxhonn, — •vandercsd in v^^ 
Among the vales of Leutha, seeking? i!ow*r; v> '■r>mfort ^^ 
And thus she spoke to the bright mariafr>id <rf f>ritha ; /*)< 



I04 UFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i793* 

* Art thou a flower ? Art thou a nymph ? I see thee now a flower ; 

* And now a nymph 1 I dare not pluck thee from thy dewy bed ! ' 

The golden nymph replied, * Pluck thou my flower, Oothoon the 

mild, 
'Another flower shall spring, because the soul of sweet delight 

* Can never pass away.' — She ceased and closed her golden shrine. 

Then Oothoon plucked the flower, saying, — * I pluck thee from 

thy bed, 
'Sweet flower, and put thee here to glow between my breasts, 
'And thus I turn my face to where my whole soul seeks.' 

Over the waves she went, in wing'd exulting swift delight. 
And over Theotormon's reign took her impetuous course. 

But she is taken in the * thunders,' or toils of Bromion, who 
appears the evil spirit of the soil. Theotormon, in jealous 
fury, chains them — * terror and meekness ' — together, back to 
back, in Bromion*s cave, and seats himself sorrowfully by. 
The lamentations of Oothoon, and her appeals to the incensed 
divinity, with his replies, form the burthen of the poem. The 
Daughters of Albion, who are alluded to in the opening lines 
as enslaved, weeping, and sighing towards America, 'hear her 
woes and echo back her cries ; ' a recurring line or refrain^ 
which includes all they have to do. 

We subjoin another extract or two : — 

Oothoon weeps not : she cannot weap ! her tears are locked up ! 
But she can howl incessant, writhing her soft, snowy limbs, 
And calling Theotormon* s eagles to prey upon her flesh ! 

* I call with holy voice ! kings of the sounding air 1 
'Rend away this defiled bosom that I may reflect 

* The image of Theotormon on my pure transparent breast I ' 

The eagles at her call descend and rend their bleeding prey. 

Theotormon severely smiles ; her soul reflects the smile. 

As the clear spring mudded with feet of beasts grows pure and smiles. 

The Daughters of Albion hear her woes and echo back her sighs. 



AJT. 36.] VISIONS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF ALBION. I05 

* Why does my Theotormon sit weeping upon the threshold ? 

* And Oothoon hovers by his side persuading him in vain I 

* I cry, Arise, O Theotormon I for the village dog 

* Barks at the breaking day ; the nightingale has done lamenting ; 

* The lark does rustle in the ripe com ; and the Eagle returns 

* From nightly prey, and lifts his golden beak to the pure east, 
' Shaking the dust from his immortal pinions, to awake 

* The sun that sleeps too long ! Arise, my Theotormon ; I am pure I 

« « ♦ « « 

* Ask the wild ass why he refuses burdens; and the meek camel 

* Why he loves man. Is it because of eye, ear, mouth, or skin, 

* Or breathing nostrils ? No : for these the wolf and tiger have. 

* Ask the blind worm the secrets of the grave ; and why her spires 

* Love to curl round the bones of death : and ask the ravenous snake 

* Where she gets poison ; and the winged eagle, why he loves the sun : 

* And then tell me the thoughts of man that have been hid of old ! 

* Silent I hover all the night, and all day could be silent, 

* If Theotormon once would turn his loved eyes upon me ; 

* How can I be defiled, when I reflect thy image pure ? 

' Sweetest the fruit that the worm feeds on ; and the soul prey'd 

on by woe. 
' The new washed lamb ting'd with the village smoke and the 

bright swan 

* By the red earth of our immortal river : I bathe my wings, 

* And I am white and pure, to hover round Theotormon '5 brea-sc' 

Then Theotormon broke his silence, and he answered : — 

* Tell me what is the night or day to one o'crfiow'd w-Irh -r-t '^ 

* Tell me what is a thought ? and of what sabetance k :': ra^^ ? 

* Tell me what is a joy ; and in what gardens co jcji ito't , 

* And in what rivers S9,im the sorrows ; and cpcn wrjii 3ir>»irxi;;vi 

* Wave shadows of discontent? And in wlic hc/^zc:i c-vt;'. v.it 

wretched, 

* Drunken with woe forgotten, asd sh:i: rp ^'j:z. ^j-.vri ':,*nr^..' > 

' Tell me where dwell the thoughts {r.rzvzeT. 'SI vo: "ji.' 'M^a-. 
forth ? 

* Tell me where dwell the JGri c: c'.c, 3zxi ir>jtrt vyt i,v.i>r,r i'^,*^ ^ 

* And when they will renew sgair. arai ihi* zn^/z '/ vu -v^ ;4v:ji 

* That I may traverse tiiaes ^rA ^zswji^i zir •*r-iv-* t,vc -a 

* Comforts into a prcscr.t s^rrcnr, vA i lu^:"'.: '/ ^41 - 



I06 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i793- 

The poem concludes thus : — 

The sea fowl takes the wintry blast for a covering to her limbs. 
And the wild snake the pestilence, to adorn him with gems and 

gold. 
And trees, and birds, and beasts, and men, behold their eternal 

joy. 
Arise, you little glancing wings, and sing your infant joy 1 
Arise, and drink your bliss ! For every thing that lives is holy. 

Thus every morning wails Oothoon, but Theotormon sits 
Upon the margined ocean, conversing with shadows dire. 

The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, and echo back her sighs. 

The designs to the Visions of the Daughters of Albion are 
magnificent in enei^ and portentousness. They are coloured 
with flat, even tints, not worked up highly. A frontispiece re- 
presents Bromion and Oothoon, chained in a cave that opens 
on the sea ; Theotormon sitting near. The title-page is of 
great beauty ; the words are written over rainbow and cloud, 
from the centre of which emerges an old man in fire, other 
figures floating round. We give two specimens. One (page 
103) illustrates the Argument we have quoted ; the other 
(page 97), an incident in the poem (also quoted), where the 
eagles of Theotormon rend the fiesh of Oothoon. 

The other volume of this year's production at Lambeth, 
entitled America, a Prophecy, is a folio of twenty pages, of 
still more dithyrambic verse. It is verse hard to fathom; 
with far too little Nature behind it, or back-bone ; a redun- 
dance of mere invention, — the fault of all this class of Blake's 
writings ; too much wild tossing about of ideas and words. 
The very names — Urthona, Enitharmon, Ore, &c. are but 
Ossian-Hke shadows, and contrast oddly with those of 
historic or matter-of-fact personages occasionally men- 
tioned in the poem ; whom, notwithstanding the subject in 
hand, we no longer expect to meet with, after reading the 
Preludium : — 



/ET. 36.] THE AMERICA. lOy 

The shadowy Daughter of Urthona stood befiore red Ore, 
When fourteen suns had faintly joumcjr'd o'er his dark abode : 
His food she brought in iron baskets, bis drink in caps of iron. 
Crown'd with a hehnet and dark hair, the nameless feinale stood. 
A quiver with its burning stores, a bow like that of m^ 
When pestilence is shot fix)m heaven, — no other arms she iieed% — 
Invulnerable though naked, save where clouds roU roand her 

loins 
Their awful folds in the dark air. Silent she stood as night: 
For never from her iron tongue could voice or sound arise; 
But dumb from that dread day when Ore essa/d his fierce 

embrace. 
' Dark virgin ! ' said the hairy youth, ' thy faAher stem, ahhorr'd, 
' Rivets my tenfold chains, while still on high my spirit soars ; 
'Sometimes an eagle screaming in the sky; sometimes a lion, 
'Stalking upon the mountains; and sometimes a whale, I lash 
'The raging, fathomless abyss; anon, a serpent folding 
'Around the pillars of Urthona, and round thy dark limbs, 
'On the Canadian wilds I fold.' 

The poem opens itself thus : — 

The Guardian Prince of Albion bums in his nightly tent. 
Sullen fires across the Atlantic glow to America's shore. 
Piercing the souls of warlike men, who rise in silent night. 
Washington, Franklin, Paine, Warren, Gates, Hancock and Greer, 
Meet on the coast, glowing with blood, from Albion's fiery prince. 
Washington spoke : ' Friends of America, look over die Atlantic sea . 
' A bended bow is lifted in heaven, and a heavy iios chain 
' Descends link by link firom Albion's difis acxosi Ac sea to Imrt 
' Brothers and sons of America, till our faces pole aad jd!km^ 
'Heads deprest, voices weak, eyes downcast, hands woik>jn;i^er^. 
' Feet bleeding on the sultry ssuds, and die farrows of ^ ^ai> 
' Descend to generations that in fiitnre times forget.' 
The strong voice ceased: for a terrible blase tw^ v*isr ^^-^ 
heaving sea. 

The eastern dood rent. On hisdifiistocdAitottf^vrttUflU ^-luvr^ 
A dragon form clashing his scales : at wadat^ iut ir/j^. 
And flamed red meteors round die head &f Aitviim :voui.;wH.. 
His voice, his locks, his awfol sbcMen ivA \\% ^(0^^^ -•:;*.* 
Appear to die Aroericaas, npfirt *e ''!ifM\f M^r 
Solemn heave the Aflatitie mikyf^ hefwwff •ii#» ^r^vvou/ m 



I08 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1793. 

One more extract shall suffice : — 

The morning comes, the night decsiys, the watchmen leave their 

stations ; 
The grave is burst, the spices shed, the linen wrapped up. 
The bones of death, the covering clay, the sinews shrunk and 

dried, 
Reviving shake, inspiring move, breathing! awakening! 
Spring, — like redeemed captives when their bonds and bars are 

burst. 
Let the slave grinding at the mill run out into the field; 
Let him look up into the heavens and laugh in the bright air. 
Let the enchained soul, shut up in darkness and in sighing, 
Whose face has never seen a smile in thirty weary years, 
Rise, and look out ! — his chains are loose ! his dungeon doors 

are open! 

The poem has no distinctly seizable pretensions to a pro- 
phetic character, being, like the rest of Blake's ' Books of ^ 
Prophecy,' rather a retrospect, in its mystic way, of events ; ; 
already transpired. The American War of Independence is/-1* 
the theme ; a portion of history here conducted mainly by -i 
vast mythic beings, * Ore,' the ' Angels of Albion,' the * Angdft:^ ~ 
of the thirteen states,' &c ; whose movements are throughout- 
accompanied by tremendous elemental commotion — 'tt^^j 
clouds and raging fire ; ' * black smoke, thunder,' and 

■y 

Plagues creeping on the burning winds driven by flames of Ore, -'i 

1 

through which chaos the merely human agents show small 
and remote, perplexed and busied in an ant-like way. Strai|M:,j 
to conceive a somewhile associate of Paine producing thepc 
' Prophetic ' volumes ! 

The America now and then occurs coloured, more often 
plain black, or occasionally blue and white. The des^ns 
blend with and surround the verse ; the mere grouping of tile 
text, filled in here and there with ornament, often formmg, 
in itself, a picturesque piece of decorative composition. Of 
the beauty of most of these designs, in their finished stated 
it would be quite impossible to obtain any notion, without 




Ht cried: \\ kt 

Why seekt ke rrii-gr fim tin 
Musi thr gmrrims irfmhir mmd 

That m-fi kimf IVkt .MmmM 



Jfat mum i.ft riei ^, «^ «b- ^mdm 






If kat fUta^ At^ im^ Jtr « 
In fml ^ btmM t .O ^m, / ■ 




no LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1793- 

of two bodies drowned in the sea — the one, that of a woman, 
cast up by the purple waves on a rocky shore ; an eagle, with 
outstretched wings, alighting on her bosom, his beak already 
tearing her flesh : the other, lying at the bottom of thi ocean, 
where snaky loathsome things are twining round it, and open- 
mouthed fishes gathering greedily to devour. The effect is 
as of looking through water down into wondrous depths. One 
design in the volume was an especial favourite of Blake's: 
that of an old man entering Death's door. It occurs in the 
Gates of Paradise (Plate 15) ; in Blair's Grave (1805), and as 
a distinct engraving. There are also two other subjects re- 
peated subsequently, — in the Grave and the Job. But one 
more design (we might expatiate on all) shall tempt us to 
loiter. It heads the last page of the book, and consists of a 
white-robed, colossal figure, bowed to the earth ; about which, 
as on a huge, snow-covered mass of rock, dwarf shapes are 
clustered here and there. Enhancing the weird effect of the 
whole, stand three lightning-scathed oaks, each of which, 

**As threatening Heaven with vengeance. 
Holds out a withered hand." 

An exquisite piece of decorative work occupies the foot of 
the page. 

In all these works the Designer*s genius floats loose and 
rudderless ; a phantom ship on a phantom sea. He projects 
himself into shapeless dreams, instead of into fair definite 
forms, as already in the Songs of Innocence he had shown that 
he could do ; and hereafter will again in the tasks so happily 
prescribed by others : — the illustrations to Youngs to Blair^s 
Grave, to Job, to Dante, In these amorphous Prophecies 
are profusely scattered the unhewn materials of poetry and 
design : sublime hints are sown broad-cast. But alas ! 
whether Blake were definite or indefinite in his conceptions, 
he was alike ignored. He had not the faculty to make him- 
self popular, even with a far more intelligent public as to Art 
than any which existed during the reign of George the Third. 



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114 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. I1793. 

naively assuring her friends afterwards that she *felt so much 
the better for it, so innocent during the rest of the day.' 
Strange cUnoHments have happened to other believers in the 
high physical, moral, and aesthetic advantages of nudity. 
Hogg tells another story, — of Dr. Franklin; who wrote, on 
merely sanitary grounds, in favour of morning * air-baths.* 
The philosopher, by the daily habit of devoting the early 
hours to study undressed, had so familiarized himself with 
the practice of his theory, that the absence of mind natural 
to philosophers led him into inadvertences. Espying once a 
friend's maid-servant tripping quickly across the green with a 
letter in her hand — an important letter he had been eagerly 
expecting — the philosopher ran out to meet her: at which 
apparition she fled in terror, screaming. Again, no one ever 
accused hard-headed, cannie Wilkie even of eccentricity. 
But he was a curious mixture of simplicity, worldliness, and 
almost fanatical enthusiasm in the practice of his art. One 
morning, the raw-boned young Scotchman was discovered by 
a caller (friend Haydon) drawing from the nude figure before 
a mirror; a method of study he pronounced *verra im- 
proving,' as well as economical ! Blake*s vagary, then, we 
may fairly maintain to be not wholly without parallel on the 
part of sane men, when carried away by an idea, as at first 
blush it would s^eem. 

At the period of the enactment of the scene from Milton, 
Mrs. Blake was, in person, still a presentable Eve. A 
' brunette ' and ' very pretty ' are terms I have picked up as 
conveying something regarding her appearance in more 
youthful days. Blake himself would boast what a pretty 
wife he had She lost her beauty as the seasons sped, — 
' never saw a woman so much altered,' was the impression of 
one on meeting her again after a lapse of but seven years ; a 
life of hard work and privation having told heavily upon her 
in the interim. In spirit, she was, at all times^ a true Eve to 
her Adam ; and might with the most literal appropriateness 
have used to him the words of Milton : 



-ET. 36.] ECCENTRICITIES. 1 1 S 

'What thou bid'st 
Unargued I obey ; so God ordains : 
God is thy law, thou mine; to know no more 
Is woman's happiest knowledge and her praise. 
With thee conversing I forget all time ; 
All seasons and their change, all please alike.' 

To her he never seemed erratic or wild. There had indeed 
at one time been a struggle of wills, but she had yielded ; and 
his was a kind, if firm rule. Surely never had visionary man 
so loyal and affectionate a wife I 




■?%. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

TH E SONGS OF EXPERIENCE. 1 794. [.et 37. ] 

In the Songs of Experience^ put forth in 1794, as complement 
to the Son^s of Innocence of 1789, we come again on more 
lucid writing than the Books of Prophecy last noticed, — 
writing freer from mysticism and abstractions, if partaking of 
the same colour of thought. Songs of Innocence and Ex- 
perience y slwwing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul: 
tfte author and printer, W. Blake, is the general title now 
given. The first series, quite in keeping with its name, had 
been of far the more heavenly temper. The second, pro- 
duced during an interval of another five years, bears inter- 
nal evidence of later origin, though in the same rank as 
to poetic excellence. As the title fitly shadows, it is of 
grander, sterner calibre, of gloomier wisdom. Strongly con- 
trasted, but harmonious phases of poetic thought are presented 
by the two series. 

One poem in the Songs of Experience happens to have 

been quoted often enough (first by Allan Cunningham in 

connection with Blake s name), to have made its strange old 

Hebrew-like grandeur, its Oriental latitude* yet force of 

eloquence, comparatively familiar : — The Tiger. To it 

Charles Lamb* refers: 'I have heard of his poems/ writes 

he, * but have never seen them. There is one to a tiger, 

' beginning — 

Tiger ! tiger ! burning bright 

In the forests of the night, 
which is glorious ! * 



-ET. 37] THE SONGS OF EXPERIKXCK, 11* 

Of the prevailing difference of sentiment between these 
poems and the San^ of Inftoctnat^ may be singled out as 
examples The Clod and the PtbbUy and ex-en so sl^t a piece 
as The Fly ; and in a more sombre mood. The Garden of 
Love, The Little Boy Lost, Holy Thursday (andt^'pe to the 
poem of the same title in Songs of Innocence), The Angel ^ 
T/ie Human Abstract, The Poison Tree, and above aU, 
London, One poem, The Little Girl Lost, may startle the 
literal reader, but has an inverse moral truth and beauty 
of its own. Another, Tlte Little Girl Lost, and Little Girl 
Found, is a daringly emblematic anticipation of some future 
age of gold, and has the picturesqueness of Spenserian 
allegory, lit with the more ethereal spiritualism of Blake. 
Touched by 

'The light that never was on sea or shore,* 

is this story of the carrying off of the sleeping little maid 

by friendly beasts of prey, who gambol round her as she 

lies ; the kingly lion bowing * his mane of gold,' and on 

her neck dropping * from his eyes of flame, ruby tears ; ' 

who, when her parents seek the child, brings them to his 

cave ; and 

They look upon his eyes. 
Filled with deep siuT)rise; 
And wondering behold 
A spirit armed in gold ! 

Well might • Flaxman exclaim, * Sir, his poems are as 
grand as his pictures/ Wordsworth read them with delight, 
and used the words before quoted. Blake himself thought 
his poems finer than his designs. Hard to say which are 
the more uncommon in kind. Neither, as I must reiterate, 
reached his own generation. In Malkin's Memoirs of a Child^ 
specimens from the Poetical Sketches and Songs of Innocence 
and Experience were given ; for these poems struck the well- 
meaning scholar, into whose hands by chance they fell, as 
somewhat astonishing ; as indeed they struck most who 



II«S LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1794, 

stumbled on them. But Malkin*s Memoirs was itself a book 
not destined to circulate very freely ; and the poems of Blake, 
even had they been really known to their generation, were 
not calculated in their higher qualities to win popular favour, 
— not if they had been free from technical imperfection. 
For it was an age of polish, though mostly polish of trifles ; 
not like the present age, with its slovenliness and licence. 
Deficient finish was never a characteristic of the innovator 
Wordsworth himself, who started from the basis of Pope 
and Goldsmith ; and whose matter, rather than manner, was 
obnoxious to critics. Defiant carelessness, though Coleridge 
in his Juvenile Poems was often guilty of it, did not become 
a characteristic of English verse, until the advent of Keats 
and Shelley ; poets of imaginative virtue enough to cover 
a multitude of their own and other people's sins. The 
length to which it has since run (despite Tennyson), we 
all know. 

Yet in this very inartificiality lies the secret of Blake's rare 
and wondrous success. Whether in design or in poetry, he 
does, in very fact, work as a man already practised in one art, 
beginning anew in another ; expressing himself with virgin 
freshness of mind in each, and in each realizing, by turns, the 
idea flung out of that prodigal cornucopia of thought and 
image, Pippa Passes : — * If there should arise a new painter, 
' will it not be in some such way by a poet, now, or a musician 
' (spirits who have conceived and perfected an ideal through 
'some other channel), transferring it to this, and escaping 
' our conventional roads by pure ignorance of them ? ' Even 
Malkin, with real sense, observes of the poet in general, — his 
mind ' is too often at leisure for the mechanical prettinesses 
' of cadence and epithet, when it ought to be engrossed by 
'higher thoughts. Words and numbers present themselves 

* unbidden when the soul is inspired by sentiment, elevated 

* by enthusiasm, or ravished by devotion.' Yes 1 ravished by 
devotion. For in these songs of Blake's occurs devotional 
poetry, which is real poetry too — a very exceptional thing. 



iCT. 37.] THE SGOKGS C7 £X3SCSaiI2. .Jl 



Witness that simpV aad Tirair'nif vatam tni.iitr£ Tmr ^ 
Image, or that Om Ami€kerj Snrrxm:, Tie Sim^ if Znuaizwat 
are in truth animatfri bj a muKcm nwrjntriu of otct jii^iTT. 
of r e v ete n t fediag, and mar be said, ir 'atr'r pzrvaLiixn^ 
influence, to be ooe dcroml aspiiziiiizi txirDiQiiDxxL r^r 
Songs of Experumu Gooossi lariirr of famr^ TTnpjffli'iTTDa: 
arguments ; in this diflens^ £raan dK finrrpif- a^mucjnKz z£ 
the earlier .^^n^ ^ Immxmct. — STgamesca on isie inf^y^r 
themes of existence. 

After the Songs of Experiemct, Blake sepQ' as:aa sai^ i:^ 
like angelic tunes ; nor even with tiie gone approaoi i:> 
technical accuracy. His poctiy was tiie blosst^m of i':j i:in 
and early manhood. Neither in dci^gn did be ztb^tjv^ qb 
the tender grace of some of these HIosUalicKQs ; ime^Elasftics 
became as conspicuous in it, as in his x^ist ; likzmffa iz a^ 
he attained to noUer heights of snblimitr; as tiie IwzwKiknLz 
to Job will exemplify. 

Let us again take a glance at vhat was gcdz^ os coz^ 
temporaneously in Elnglish liteiatiiie during the years ^r^y-X- 
In novels, these were the days of act in t y of the fara^^us 
Minerva Press, with Perdita Robinscm and E:*tl«Lncbi»:r 
Charlotte Smith as leaders. Truer coin was drculalec hy 
Godwin {St. Leon appeared in 1799;, hyZeluco Mccce, by Mrs. 
Radcliffe {Mysteries of Udolpko^ in 1794,, by Mimk Lcrw s 
the sisters Lee, Mrs. Inchbald, and Mrs. Opic. 1:3 verst, it 
was the hour of the sentimental Delia Cmscans, Madamt 
Piozzi, Mrs. Robinson again, 'Mr. Merr>%' and others. On 
these poor butterflies, Gifibrd, in this vcr>' year, la:d bit 
coarse, heavy hand ; himself as empty a versifier, if smarter. 
Glitterii^ Darwin, whose Loves of the Plants delighted the 
reading world in 1789, smooth Hayley, Anna Seward, * Swan 
of Lichfield,' were popular poets. In satire. Dr. Wolcott 
was punctually receiving fix>m the booksellers his uncon- 
scionably long annuity of two hundred and fifty pounds, for 
copious Peter Pindarisms, fugitive odes, and epistles. In 
the region of enduring literature Cowper had closed hig 



I20 . LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i794- 

contributions to poetry by the translation of Homer. The third 
reprint of Burns*s Poetns, with Tarn O'S/ianter for one addition, 
had appeared at Edinburgh in 1793 ; and the poet himself 
took leave of this rude world in 1796. Crabbe had achieved 
his first success. Among rising jtmiors was Rogers, who 
had made his difbut in 1786, the same year as Bums ; and in 
1792, the Pleasures of Memory established a lasting reputa- 
tion for its author, — a thing it would hardly do now. A little 
later (1799), stripling CampbelFs Pleasures of Hope will leap 
through four editions in a year. Bloomfield is in 1793-4 
jotting down T/ie Farmers Boy ; Wordsworth shaping the 
first example, but a diffuse one, of that new kind of poetry 
which was hereafter to bring refreshment and happiness 
to many hearts, — Guilt and Sorrow ; still one of his least 
read poems. 

In the newly-opened fruitful domain of poetic antiqua- 
rianism, — the eighteenth century's best poetic bequest, — 
Bishop Percy had found a zealous follower in choleric, 
trenchant Joseph Ritson who, in 1791, published his Pieces 
of Ancient Popular Poetry y and in 1795 Robin Hood, In 1790 
had appeared Ellis's Specimens of t lie Early English Poets, 

Surely there was room for Blake's pure notes of song — 
still, in i860, fresh as when first uttered — to have been heard. 
But it was fated otherwise. Half a century later, they 
attracted the attention of a sympathizer with all mystics and 
spiritualists. Dr. Wilkinson, the editor of Sweden borg. Under 
his auspices, the Songs of Innocence and Experience were 
reprinted, or rather first printed, as a thin octavo, without 
illustrations, by Pickering, in Chancery Lane, and W. New- 
berry, in Chenies Street, both extinct publishers now. A 
very limited impression was taken off, and the reprint soon 
became almost as scarce as the costly and beautiful original. 
During the last few years, I have observed only three copies 
turn up— two at the fancy prices of ;f I 8j. and ;^i ys,6d, ; the 
other, secured by myself at a more moderate outlay. They 
are once again printed in Vol. II. in the succession, so far as 



.ET. 37-1 THE SONGS OF EXPERIENCE. 12! 

can be ascertained, in which^eir author first issued them. 
Consisting, as they did, of loose sheets, the Songs have seldom 
been bound up twice alike, and are generally even numbered 
wrong. Dr. Wilkinson printed them in an order of his own, 
and too often with words of his own ; alterations which were 
by no means improvements always. They are now given 
in strict fidelity to the original, the correction of some 
few glaring grammatical blemishes alone excepted, which 
seemed a pious duty.^ 

A few words of bibliographic detail may perhaps be per- 
mitted for the collector's sake, considering the extreme beauty, 
the singularity, and rarity of the original book. 

The illustrated Songs of Innocence and Experience was 
issued to Blake's public, to his own friends that is, at the 
modest price of thirty shillings or two guineas. Its selling 
price now, when perfect, varies from ten and twelve guineas 
upwards. From the circumstance of its having lain on hand 
in sheets, and from some purchasers having preferred to buy 
or bind only select portions, the series often occurs short of 
many plates — generally wants one or two. The right number 
is fifty-four engraved pages. 

Later in Blake's life, — for the sheets always remained in 
stock, — five guineas were given him, and in some cases, when 
intended as a delicate means of helping the artist, larger 
sums. Flaxman recommended more than one friend to take 
copies, a Mr. Thomas among them, who, wishing to give 
the artist a present, made the price ten guineas. For such 
a sum Blake could hardly do enough, finishing the plates 
like miniatures. In the last years of his life, Sir Thomas 
Lawrence, Sir Francis Chantrey, and others, paid as much as 
twelve and twenty guineas ; Blake conscientiously working up 
the colour and finish, and perhaps over-labouring them, in 
return ; printing off only on one side of the leaf, and expand- 
ing the book by help of margin into a handsome quarto. If 
without a sixpence in his pocket, he was always too justly 

* Sec note prefixed to the Songs in Vol. 11. 



122 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1794. 

proud to confess it : so that, whoever desired to give Blake 
money, had to do it indirectly, to avoid offence, by purchas- 
ing copies of his works ; which, too, might have hurt his pride, 
had he suspected the secret motive, though causelessly ; for 
he really gave, as he well knew, far more than an intrinsic 
equivalent. 

The early, low-priced copies, — Flaxman's for instance, — 
though slighter in colour, possess a delicacy of feeling, a 
freshness of execution, often lost in the richer, more laboured 
examples, especially in those finished after the artist's death 
by his widow. One of the latter I have noticed, very full 
and heavy in colour, the tints laid on with a strong and 
indiscriminating touch. 

Other considerable varieties of detail in the final touches 
by hand exist. There are copies in which certain minutiae 
are finished with unusual care and feeling. The prevailing 
ground-colour of the writing and illustrations also varies. 
Sometimes it is yellow, sometimes blue, and so on. In 
one copy the writing throughout is yellow, not a happy 
effect. Occasionally the colour is carried further down the 
page than the ruled space ; a stream say, as in The Lamb, is 
introduced. Of course, therefore, the degrees of merit vary 
greatly between one copy and another, both as a whole 
and in the parts. A few were issued plain, in black and 
white, or blue and white, which are more legible than the 
polychrome examples. In these latter, the red or yellow 
lettering being sometimes unrelieved by a white ground, 
we have, instead of contrasted hue, gradations of it, as 
in a picture. 

Out of the destruction that has engulfed so large a portion 
of Blake's copper-plates, partly owing to the poverty which 
compelled him often to obliterate his own work, that the 
same metal might serve again, partly to the neglect, and 
worse than neglect, of some of those into whose hands they 
fell, we have happily been able to enrich our pages from 
a remnant, — ten plates, taking off sixteen impressions (a 



^T. 37.] 



THE SONGS OF EXPERIENCE. 



123 



few having been engraved on both sides), — of the Songs of 
Innocence and Experience. The gentleman from whom they 
were obtained had once the entire series in his posses- 
sion ; but all save these ten were stolen by an ungrateful 
black he had befriended, who sold them to a smith as 
old metal. 




CHAPTER XIV. 

PRODUCTIVE YEARS. 1794—95. l^- 37—38.] 

To the Songs of ExperUjice succeeded from Lambeth the 
same year (1794) volumes of mystic verse and design, in 
the track of the Visiofts of the Daughters of Albion^ and 
the America, One of them is a sequel to the America, 
and generally occurs bound up with it, sometimes coloured, 
sometimes plain. It is entitled Europe^ a Proplucy: 
Lambeth, printed by William Blake, 1794; and consists of 
seventeen quarto pages, with designs of a larger size than 
those of America, occupying the whole page often. The 
frontispiece represents the * Ancient of Days,' as shadowed 
forth in Proverbs viii. 27 : ' when he set a compass upon 
the face of the earth ; ' and again, as described in Paradise 
Lost, Book vii. line 236 : a grand figure, * in an orb of light 
' surrounded by dark clouds, is stooping down, with an 

* enormous pair of compasses, to describe the world's 

* destined orb ; ' Blake adopting with childlike fidelity, but 
in a truly sublime spirit, the image of the Hebrew and 
English poets. This composition was an especial favourite 
with its designer. When colouring it by hand, he 'always 
bestowed more time,* says Smith, 'and enjoyed greater 
pleasure in the task, than from anything else he produced/ 
The process of colouring his designs was never to him, how- 
ever, a mechanical or irksome one. Very different feelings 
were his from those of a mere copyist. Throughout life, 
whenever for his few patrons filling in the colour to his 



\- 



I . 



I 









.^T. 37—38.] EUROPE. 125 

engraved books, he lived anew the first fresh, happy ex- 
periences of conception, as in the high hour of inspiration. 

Smith teUs us that Blake * was inspired with the splendid 
' grandeur of this figure, " T/ie A ncient of Days I' by the 
' vision which he declared hovered over his head at the top 
' of his staircase' in No. 13, Hercules Buildings, and that 
' he has been frequently heard to say that it made a more 
' powerful impression upon his mind than all he had ever 
* been visited by.' On that same staircase it was Blake, for 
the only time in his life, saw a g/iost. When talking on 
the subject of ghosts, he was wont to say they did not 
appear much to imaginative men, but only to common 
minds, who did not see the finer spirits. A ghost was a 
thing seen by the gross bodily eye, a vision, by the mental. 
' Did you ever see a ghost ? " asked a friend. ' Never but 
once/ was the reply. And it bcfel thus. Standing one 
evening at his garden-door in Lambeth, and chancing to 
look up, he saw a horrible grim figure, 'scaly, speckled, 
very awful,' stalking down stairs towards him. More fright- 
ened than ever before or after, he took to his heels, and 
ran out of the house. 

It is hard to describe poems wherein the dramatis personce 
are giant shadows, gloomy phantoms ; the scene, the realms 
of space ; the time, of such corresponding vastness, that 
eighteen hundred years pass as a dream : — 

Enithannon slept 
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ 

She slept in middle of her nightly song 
Eighteen hundred years. 

More apart from humanity even than the America, it is 
hard to trace out any distinct subject, any plan or purpose 
in the Europe, or to determine whether it mainly relate to 
the past, present, or to come. And yet its incoherence has 
a grandeur about it as of the utterance of a man whose eyes 
are fixed on strange and awful sights, invisible to bystanders. 
To use an expression of Blake's own, on a subsequent 



126 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i794— 5- 

occasion, it is as if the ' Visions were angry/ and hurried 
in stormy disorder before his rapt gaze, no longer to bless 
and teach, but to bewilder and confound. 

The Preludium^ and the two accompanying specimen pages, 
which give a portion of both words and design, will enable 
the reader to form some idea of the poem. There occurs 
in one of the latter an allusion to the Courts of Law at 
Westminster, which is a striking instance of that occasional 
mingling of the actual with the purely symbolic, before 
spoken of. Perhaps the broidery of spider's web which so 
felicitously embellishes the page, was meant to bear a typical 
reference to the same. 

The 'nameless shadowy female,* with whose lamentation 
the poem opens, personifies Europe as it would seem ; her 
head (the mountains) turbaned with clouds, and round her 
limbs, the ' sheety waters ' wrapped ; whilst Enitharmon 
symbolizes great mother Nature : — 

Prcludium. 

The nameless shadowy female rose from out 

The breast of Ore, 

Her snaky hair brandishing in the winds of Enitharmon : 

And thus her voice arose: — 

* O mother Enithamion, wilt thou bring forth other sons ? 

' To cause my name to vanish, that my place may not be found ? 

' For I am faint with travel ! 

' Like the dark cloud disburdened in the day of dismal thunder. 

' My roots are brandish'd in the heavens ; my fruits in earth 

beneath, 
' Surge, foam, and labour into life I — first bom, and first consam'd, 
' Consumed and consuming ! 
'Then why shouldst thou, accursed mother! bring me into life? 

' I weep ! — my turban of thick clouds around my lab'ring head ; 

' I fold the sheety waters as a mantle round my limbs. 

'Yet the red sun and moon 

'And all the overflowing stars rain down prolific pains. 



irVrken. un'JtStti Lf Boei : lit^^ k^ ttal <*•!*. p^ 

rrt* <Ua.^ ~jiAs tB Sit. dU. &'m. tTJaCtnj J^ 

A vt^t re<i ptrutifiL if ^te, smsu oW _ - 
'jmA iUik alia-ft. iljtands L avtrshojUia I.. 

•ii>i£ (^ trump ofOit, last dooiu 



dofi lit, rut «« A.itt 






titf^andg'i^'Oni, h^ Ai-t lUdi,. and. nervS tr 

*k»i«3 aif^ Ciuii CtergiSdiU. c/ire' Al But goA aJ-itiv. sfUu/S f 




<" Off- ttjoUJ. la huU tht Ktrrl/j^ jLul/tfl 

i(£ /itAJWrsi 1A16 fUj i^fi-Citi^^l DwuAu^ liairn, kU >fulc> one, 

'►y ^4tre. a. <&«,. «|y <Tva«, icuruC; ^ j-Am^*j aj-s [WJ. f* 10 

Me"iLj«n^ U Ua4in, oyt.s tU t^oiUtuU^ of s~J>ui 
i« Am^' Solh a-nM. biiU- a/t, J^ (,antj V vUjU-OVi 

IcClMCn, e*» tJa.UxvfU-i^f\.thc ^a^bc nf Ort roll Juar 





V . '■ 



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V 



128 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1794—5. 

All Eternity shuddered at sight' 

Of the first female form, now separate. 

Pale as a cloud of snow, 

Waving before the face of Los ! 

Wonder, awe, fear, astonishment, 

Petrify the eternal myriads 

At the first female form now separate. 

They call'd her Pity, and fled ! 

• 

'Spread a tent with strong curtains around them: 
'Let cords and stakes bind in the Void, 
* That Eternals may no more behold them I * 

They began to weave curtains of darkness. 
They erected large pillars round the void ; 
With golden hooks fastened in the pillars; 
With infinite labour, the Eternals 
A woof wove, and called it Science. 

The design, like the text, is characterized by a monotony 
of horror. Every page may be said as a furnace mouth to 

' Cast forth redounding smoke and ruddy flame,' 

in the midst of which are figures howling, weeping, writhing, 
or chained to rocks, or hurled headlong into the ab3rss. Of 
the more striking, I recall a figure that stoops over and seems 
breathing upon a globe enveloped in flames, the lines of fire 
flowing into those of his drapery and hair ; an old, amphibious- 
looking giant, with rueful visage, letting himself sink slowly 
through the waters like a frog; a skeleton coiled round, 
resembling a fossil giant imbedded in the rock, &c The 
colouring is rich, — a little overcharged perhaps in the copy 
I have seen, — and gold-leaf has been freely used, to heighten 
the eflfect. 

Still another volume bears date 1794, — a small quarto, 
consisting of twenty-three engraved and coloured designs, 
without letter-press, explanation, or key of any kind. The 
designs are of various size, all fine in colour, all extraordinary, 
some beautiful, others monstrous, abounding in forced 



MT. 57—33^1 THE SOXG OF LOS. 1 29 

attitudes^ and suspicious anatomy. The firondspicoe, adopted 
firom Urisem^ is inscribed L^amittJk, primUd fy IVuL B/att, 
1794, and has the figure of an aged man, naked, with white 
beard sweeping the ground, and extended arms, each hand 
resting on a pile of books, and each holding a pen, where- 
with he writes. The volume seems to be a carefully finished 
selection of &vourite compositions from his portfolios and 
engraved books. Four are recc^^izable as the priodpal 
des^^ of the B4fai of Thd^ modified in outline, and in 
colour richer and deeper. One occurs in the Viswns of the 
DoM^iUrs of Album, Another will hereafter re-appear in 
the illustrations to The Grave : — * The spirit of the strong 
wicked man going forth.' 

Tie Somg of Los (1795), is in metrical prose, and is di\nded 
into two portions, one headed Africa^ the other Asia. In 
it we again, as in the America^ seem to catch a thread of 
connected meaning. It purports to show the rise and influ- 
ence of different religions and philosophies upon mankind ; 
but, according to Blake's wont, both action and dialogue 
are carried on, not by human agents, but by shadowy im- 
mortals. Ore, Sotha, Palamabron, Rintrah, Los, and many 
more: — 

Then Rintrah gave abstract philosophy to Brama in the East; 

(Night spoke to the cloud — 

*So these himian-formed spirits in smiling hypocrisy war 

* Against one another : so let them war on ! 

' Slaves to the eternal elements ! ') 

Next, Palamabron gave an • abstract law ' to Pythagoras ; 
then also to Socrates and Plato : — 

Times roU'd on o'er all the sons of men, 

Till Christianity dawns. Monasticism is spoken of: — 

♦ ♦ ♦ The healthy built 
Secluded places: • * ♦ 

VOL. I. K 



I30 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1794—95. 

Afterwards it becomes a fruitful source of spiritual cor- 
ruption : — 

Then were the churches, hospitals, castles, palaces, 

Like nets and gins and traps to catch the joys of eternity; 

And all the rest a desert, 

Till like a dream, eternity was obliterated and erased 

Prior to this, however — 

Antamon caird up Leutha from her valleys of delight, 

And to Mahomet a loose Bible gave. 

But in the North to Odin, Sotha gave a code of war. 

A gradual debasement of the human race goes on — 

Till a philosophy of five senses was complete ! 

Urizen wept, and gave it into the hands of Newton and Locke. 

Clouds roll heavy upon the Alps round Rousseau and Voltaire. 

And on the mountains of Lebanon round the deceased gods of 
Asia, 

And on the deserts of Africa round the Fallen Angels. 

The Guardian Prince of Albion bums in his nightly tentl 

Under the symbol of the kings of Asia, the Song describes 
the misery of the old philosophies and despotisms ; their 
bitter lament and prayer that by pestilence and fire the race 
may be saved ; * that a remnant may learn to obey ' : — 

The Kings of Asia heard 

The howl rise up from Europe ! 

And each ran out from his web. 

From his ancient woven den : 

For the darkness of Asia was startled 

At the thick-flaming, thought-creating fires of Ore 

And the Kings of Asia stood 

And cried in bitterness of soul : — 

* Shall not the King call for Famine from the heath ? 

* Nor the Priest for Pestilence from the fen ? 
' To restrain ! to dismay ! to thin, 

* The inhabitants of mountain and plain ! 

* In the day of full- feeding prosperity, 

* And the night of delicious songs ? ' 



^«T. 37—38] AH ANIA. 1 3 1 

Urizen heard their cry : — 

And stretched his clouds over Jerusalem : 
For Adam, a mouldering skeleton, 
Lay bleached on the garden of Eden ; 
And Noah, as white as snow, 
On the mountains of Ararat. 

He thunders desolately from the heavens ; Ore rises * like 
a pillar of fire above the Alps/ the earth shrinks, the resurrec- 
tion of the dry bones is described, and the poem concludes. 

Of the illustrations, two are separate pictures occupying 
the full page; the rest surround and blend with the text 
in the usual manner; and if they have not all the beauty, 
they share a full measure of the spirit and force of Blake. 
The colour is laid on with an impasto which gives an opaque 
and heavy look to some of them, and the medium being 
oil, the surface and tints have suffered. Here, as elsewhere, 
the designs seldom directly embody the subjects of the 
poem, but are independent though kindred conceptions — the 
right method perhaps. 

As if the" artist himself were at length beginning to grow 

weary. The Book of Ahania (1795), last of this series, is quite 

unadorned, except by two vignettes, one on the title, the 

other on the concluding page. The text is neatly engraved 

in plain black and white, without border or decoration of 

any kind. There are lines and passages of much force and 

beauty, but they emerge from surrounding obscurity like 

lightning out of a cloud : — 

* And ere a man hath power to say — Behold ! 
The jaws of darkness do devour it up.' 

The first half of the poem is occupied with the dire warfare 

between Urizen and his rebellious son, Fuzon. Their 

weapons are thus describled : — 

The broad disk of Urizen upheaved, 
Across the void many a mile. 
It was forged in mills where the winter 
Beats incessant: ten winters the disk 
Unremitting endured the cold hammer. 

K 2 



132 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i797- 

But it proves ineffectual against Fuzon's fiery beam : — 

* * Laughing, it tore through 
That beaten mass; keeping its direction, 
The cold loins of Urizen dividing. 

Wounded and enraged, Urizen prepares a bow formed of 
the ribs of a huge serpent — 'a circle of darkness' — and 
strung with its sinews, by which Fuzon is smitten down 
into seeming death. In the midst of the conflict, Ahania, 
who is called ' the parted soul of Urizen,' is cast forth : — 

She fell down a faint shadow wand'ring 
In chaos and circling dark Urizen, 
As the moon anguish'd circles the earth ; 
Hopeless ! abhorred ! a death-shadow 
Unseen, unbodied, unknown ! 
The mother of Pestilence! 

Her lamentation, from which we draw our final extract, 
fills the concluding portion of the poem : — 

Ah, Urizen! Love! 
Flower of morning! I weep on the verge 
Of non-entity: how wide the abyss 
Between Ahania and thee! 

♦ 

I cannot touch his hand. 

Nor weep on his knees, nor hear 

His voice and bow; nor see his eyes 

And joy; nor hear his footsteps and 

My heart leap at the lovely sound! 

I cannot kiss the place 

Whereon his bright feet have trod. 

But I wander on the rocks 

With hard necessity. 

While intent on the composition and execution of these 
^ mystic books, Blake did not neglect the humble task-work 
which secured him a modest independence. He was at this 
time busy on certain plates for a book of travels. Captain 
J. G. Stedman's Narrative of a Five Years' Expedition against 
the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, This work, 'illustrated 



^.37-38.] AHANIA. 133 

'with eighty elegant engravings from drawings made by 
*the author/ was published by Johnson the following ytar 
(1796). Of these 'elegant engravings' Blake executed fc/ux- 
teen ; Holloway and Bartolozzi were among those cfl3plyyt:d 
for the remainder. Negroes, Monkeys, 'Limes, C^yiAc\m»t, 
Mummy-apples/ and other natural productions of tit 
country, were the chief subjects which fcU to BiSiJbt:^ 

share. 

Also among the fruit of this period should be particuliiiit^ 
two prints in which the figures are on a larger soak tJuaix ;ij 
any other engravings by Blake. They are both fro«o li't 
own designs. Under the first is inscribed : — Ezekid: * Vait^ 
away from thee the desire of thine eyes.* Ezek. x%n. \j 
Painted and Engraved by W. Blake. Oct 27, 1794. >>;. 
Hercules Buildings. Ezekiel kneels with arms cr<>b^ '^i^ 
eyes uplifted in stem and tearless grief, acoordii^ tv Gvdi 
command : beside him is one of those solemn hfj^^A fi{ui«;t 
with hidden face, and hair sweeping the ground^ fcUikt vIuij 
and with such powerful eifect, introduces : and vn 41 <>Vi«^;ii 
in the background lies the shrouded corpse *A h^:>:i«:»'t 
wife. 

The subject of the other, which corre8pcmdt> in i^i/> 'm.uC 
style, is from the Book df Job: — 'What uj nian, tiui< tov. 
shouldst try him every moment?' It pobi^iAb*:t ^ y/i,*Mi>.*t 
interest as being the first embodiment of Blaktr't id^;;*^ u|/'>ii 
a theme, thirty years later to be develop^^d in xUn^ t^.r^it 
of designs, — ^the Inventions to the Book of Job, whicii U>.i,u 
as a grand harmonious whole, is an instance <A rkin. m 
dividual genius, of the highest art with what<jv<;r <A/iiijyiirt.d, 
that certainly constitutes his masterpiece. Thtr figure vf }<j\j 
himself, in the early design, is the same as tliat in tlit 
Inventions. But the wife is a totally diflernt cvnccjAivn, 
being of a hard and masculine type. 



CHAPTER XV. 

AT WORK FOR THE PUBLISHERS. 1795—99. [iBT. 58-^42.] 

In 1795-6, Miller, the publisher, of Old Bond Street, 
employed Blake to illustrate a new edition in quarto, of 
a translation of Burger's Lenore, by one Mr. J. T. Stanley, 
F.R.S. The first edition (1786), had preceded by ten years 
Sir Walter Scott*s translation, which came out at the -same 
time as Stanley's new edition. The amateur version amounts 
to a paraphrase, not to say a new poem ; the original being 
' altered and added to,' to square it with ' the cause of religion 
and morality.' Blake's illustrations are engraved by a man 
named iPerry, and are three in number. One is a frontispiece, 
— Lenore clasping her ghostly bridegroom on their earth- 
scorning charger; groups of imps and spectres from hell 
hovering above and dancing below; a composition full of 
grace in the principal figures, wild horror and diablerie in the 
accessories. Another — a vignette — is an idealised procession 
of Prussian soldiers, escorted by their friends ; Lenore and 
her mother vainly gazing into the crowd in quest of their 
missing William. It is a charmingly composed group 
characterised by more than Stothard's g^ce and statuesque 
beauty. The third illustration, also a vignette, is the awaken- 
ing of Lenore from her terrible dream, William rushing into 
her arms in the presence of the old St. Anna-like mother,— 
for such is the turn the catastrophe takes under Mr. Stanley's 



■y.' 



\ 






* .' * 



JBT, 4a], AT WORK FOR THE TUBUSHERS. 135 

hands. This, again, is a composition of much daring and 
grace; its principal female figure, one of those spiritual, 
soul-startled forms Blake alone of men could draw. To 
Stanley's translation the publisher added the original German 
poem, with two engravings after Chodowiecki, • the Grerman 
Hc^arth,' as he has been called, which, though clever, look 
as here executed, prosaic compared with Blake. 

Edwards, of New Bond Street, at that day a leading 
bookseller, engaged Blake, in 1796, to illustrate an expen- 
sive edition, emulating BoydelFs Shakspere and Milton, of 
Young's Night Thoughts. The Night Tlioughts was then, as 
it had been for more than half a century, a living classic, 
which rival booksellers delighted to re-publish. Edwards 
paid his designer and engraver * a despicably low sum,' says 
Smith, which means, I believe, a guinea a plate. And yet 
the prefatory Advertisement ^ dated December 22, 1796, tells 
us that the enterprise had been undertaken by the publisher 
' not as a speculation of advantage, but as an indulgence of 
' inclination, in which fondness and partiality would not 
< permit him to be curiously accurate in adjusting the estimate 

* of profit and loss ; ' undertaken also from the wish * to make 

* the arts in their most honourable agency subservient to the 

* purposes of religfion.' In the same preface, written with 
Johnsonian swing, by Fuseli probably — the usual literary help 
of fine-art publishers in those days — and who I suspect had 
something to do with Edwards' choice of artist, ' the m'trit ^f 
Mr. Blake ' is spoken of in terms which show it to hav^ ryyr. 
not wholly ignored then: 'to the eyes of the &\%aixxx\z/i ;* 

* need not be pointed out ; and while a taste for the arr^ ^A 
'design shall continue to exist, the original conc^.pt;^r,, -at A 
*the bold and masterly execution of th:A artist carr./'/* -#^ 
' unnoticed or unadmired.' The edition, wh.VJi v;*^ u, ;»;,/* 
been issued in parts, never got beyond the fir>?, . :/*;%:,/-, ^ry/, .. 
ragement proving inadequate. ThU part ^rx^rrA^ fr, r„f,^<^ 
five pages,— to the end of Night /A? f-ourtk, -atA . /i ./;/ 4 
forty-three designs. It appeared in tr*c ;t.*^Jr.^.^ '/. ,77/ 



136 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1797. 

These forty-three plates occupied Blake a year. A com- 
plete set of drawings for the Night Thoughts had been made, 
which remained in the family of Edwards, the publisher, till 
quite recently, when it passed into the hands of Mr. Bain, of 
the Haymarket. ' Altogether this enormous series reaches 
'the aggregate of five hundred and thirty-seven designs, of 

* which, as has been said, only forty-three were given in the 
' Engraved Selection. In some, every inch of the available 
' margin is quick with multitudinous invention ; and in others 
' the whole interest is gathered to the broadest spaces and 
' the remainder left as great breadths of Ught or gloom. As 
' might be expected in so vast a task, they are very unequal 
' both in conception and design. In succession they are 

* solemn, tender or playful, broken by frequent bursts of 

* Titanic inspiration under which the pages tremble. Then 

* follow others painfully grotesque, or feebly uninteresting, but 
' these are comparatively few ; and the inspection of these 

* unique volumes (which ought to belong to the nation) cannot 

* fail to impress on the mind of every lover of Blake a loftier 
' estimate of his gigantic powers than was before entertained' 
Thus writes Mr. Frederick Shields, from whose hand the 
reader will find, in VoL II., complete descriptive notes of all 
the more important designs in this great series. 

Edwards' edition was as much a book of design as of type ; 
splendidly printed in folio on thick paper, with an ample 
margin to each page. Around every alternate leaf Blake 
engraved wild, allegorical figures ; designs little adapted to 
the apprehension of his public. He so engraved them as to 
make a picture of the whole page, as in his own illustrated 
poems ; but not with an equally felicitous result, when com- 
bined with formal print. To each of the four Nights was 
prefixed an introductory design or title. The illustrations 
have one very acceptable aid, and that is, a written 'ex- 
planation of the engravings ' at the end ; drawn up or put 
into shape by another hand than Blake's — the same possibly 
which had penned the Advertisement, It would be well if 



MX.^l AT WORK FOR THE PUBU.HI{ER:U r 37 

all his des^ns had this hdp. For at ono^ iiti;r;u in liia v;ir.:;^ 
lation of word into line, daring and unhacknuvt in iir: £n;aini:r 
of indicatii^ his pr^nant allegories, Blaice t ^j-ttw^rr,r*rintt o. 
not always explain themselves at a glAnrr, «nrt vjf :u.<ir v:in:i' 
mcanif^ half their beauty too must tiKrAsi :^n ,t,*tr^ 

Looked at merely as maq^nal br*r,K iil.i.':r/r«r^/.r..:. Vm 
engravings are not strikingly sucr/^riftfiii. TV, ti'^rcr^-. r/« v? 
filled in these folio pages is of itself tr^^ \^%^- anr: -Wi-, t^jur, 'A 
the outlines is aesthetically aoytfain^ b«it \ :4.f.rt. i'.r \^wxi 
meanings as Blake's, not helped by rhit tu.^ivMr.ii Jiu/ ,\.i ^a 
the painter's lai^uage, can be arfvanr^ w.iicti / "^^r/.^r-ttirrrt 
into small space. The oft-repeatwi /viir^^^cs*. -irui^: •♦ ^-»r;*r;s. 
and Time sprawling aicross the pag«t — nrf ir/r? *:'./• -c/^'-: 'i.t' '::'-. 
margin of the book, and necerwarly <*v'*/: *-.^a, — -^^j^.^wn 
somewhat uninteresting. Ho-r ^^rT:it k'*it^.\ v*.i i/'„f /.♦>-•: --- 
ingratiate himself with the public, rhn 'Wsv/^/'^y: :#*rr::: *-f.-:'.'.- 
plifies. The general spectatr.r v::: itiK r:^:^r. <r:^(i'i, c.. 
harping on life, death, and :rr.r.-x«-:A.i-:/ ^^' ''/-<'. ir-Vt/r, /r . 
austere themes, austerely tr<«se?i. f 4,iy; ?v*jrf:/ ^**:': <t/ «-'''-•/ 
without even the relief of v, aiua -ttCv-iyr-t/r '/ w .r/:./ 
topic and image as is intr»>£anyi ti nii* V;jr.r '/ T:ii^ rr. ^"c-v-- 
matic poet There is au-.tjr.tr.cy %f i.avrt.-j: -/ v-jc.v/.rrr.:: '/ 
handling the graver eves, fcui^it j i^r. ^/n*.:' '.•..:u.-#-t .•.': 
the expression of idea: yjZK ^:.ii ^ '/.,.•: /v^c.: t^::. -cj' '.- 
those literature is orx::juxS^j ♦s^v^-^*-' v, '-.< »*r/ v-:". vi,: :- 
cending words» is at tfse *>*?/ '^^.•c:'-«: y./t "-v :::-€-'. v' :i>r 
great mass of SK<!en ptr.'r.trt 'i*!>f* . ..i-: '-•' i/. -oc- 
viduality in his fac». ;: ztjcj^k xr i: : 'a*':-. : 'I /y^jc^ ^.rv-i 
and &ces, abstract :tzy:::trjeLiL*^r.'t '*-r*: .::*^-c "-. *::r.yr*^z i-.s 
meaning. Eveiythcag — £tfur*a :kjut:fu.'j^. v.•^".-.:•^ «.c-if>- 
sory — is reduced t*^ hi titi^iitr'U- uLtyt .: -I'-v-*^-^. i-i^ — 
' bare earth, bare uof^ uii 'r.Ktr.. *jkjrK 

The absence of cv>>*jr. t:*^ us*^ '/ ^-^ i-iJf.t s^ »<il 
understood, to reiie^» iit &is.y>, o^&«i;' i-^^ i-^^i^- 
significancse, is a grivt ivbt -' iifc»f: s»^-^-' vr-t c-;'%'>' C': 



f'-VlV^.lV ^C 



r *-r- 



138 LIFE OF W1LLLIAM BLAKE. [1797—99- 

Lord Houghton, much improved by the addition, forming a 
book of great beauty. 

Many of these designs, taken by themselves, are, however, 
surpassingly imaginative and noble : as the first — ' Death in 

* the character of an old man, having swept away with one 
'hand part of a family, is presenting with the other their 
'spirits to immortality;' in which, as often happens with 
Blake, separate parts are even more beautiful compositions 
than the whole. And again, the literal translation into out- 
line of a passage few other artists would have selected, to 
render closely: — 

*Wl^t though my soul fantastic measures trod 
O'er fairy fields; or moum'd along the gloom 
Of pathless woods; or down the craggy steep 
Hurl'd headlong; swam with pain the mantled pool 
Or scaled the cliff, or danced on hollow winds. 
With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain,' 

Again, the illustration to the line — 

*'Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours,* 

in which ' the hours are drawn as aerial and shadowy beings 
' some of whom are bringing their scrolls to the inquirer, while 

* others are carrying their records to heaven/ Again, * the 
' author, encircled by thorns emblematical of grief, laments 
' the loss of his friend to the midnight hours,' here also repre- 
sented as aerial, shadowy beings. A grand embodiment is 
that of the Va/e of Deaths where *the power of darkness 
' broods over his victims as they are borne down to the grave 

* by the torrent of a sinful life ; ' the life stream showing im- 
ploring upturned faces, rising to the suface, of infancy, youth, 
age ; while the pure, lovely figure of Narcissa wanders in the 
shade beside. 

Of a higher order still, are some illustrations in which the 
designer chooses themes of his own, parallel to, or even 
independent of the text, not mere translations of it As 
to the line — 

' Its favours here are trials, not rewards,' 



4^3 ^^ iraci: FCH 



- r 



*' \f^, liic hignau eg of & «tttj* iaxnln' £ suooairr xxssrmx^ i>r 
* the acoDenx as Iik ^titcmnf* ^ lasatr xrmi. tic no: of «. sr*- 

vbile liefliDe p«w its scaixmiL. vrift 2r 2L"=i nnzocsdois of hs 
>«>t^iT^ avsr. ami. iiikcn^ laarL nsr TnTJair ^viU' 
om va^iz lute ^^=">^- tl pss :. isxn. or iti£ 
wing. A tnilf jarg i Mir a1pyiir\- noun- ossipn^c. am: of 
SafiacQeagne gxasac Or wl si^xc e mxn 22 iiH lint — 

' -^Qft Innc nrr sm^ usytmt tut iiD:nirr- xr InL.' 

a kwdy and aprrittta' figurt iiuidiii^ c. h-r* rtil sprinr-mr 
' into the air^ but conmec rn^ £. rrair ii lie t:«r^ rjpins* 

* die stmggizng wflbt saiL rjr rmiT^anLiri- Tii* iin* — 

wzywsrdiy suggtsis i. issiv^ bin mt cjnciisiriuc of a inE£ 

* meastziixig ao hnsaxi viiL iiii spiir., ir Eliusiiir ii- thi shan. 
'0CS5 of life.' Tc/tbtv:irdi — 

'EsKm* lice t&s: Meriisr.. fade k k trr irslk.* 

wc have of course the st:^- of IkilsiieLjiZej'. HusrrLrrre of tb^ 
axiom *teadiiTig ve icarr./ is 2xnr:#fu::tf £r inLatcrec £^i 
beaatiful groupj — ac ag^ iitiier iiis::ruciir!g his cfhUdren. 

Some of the dehigns Utmdh cm ih'jst SLfterwards rrjore 
matured in Blair's Grtnie : as * ArjgtiS arteDcing the de&th-bed 
' of the righteous,' and Angels ajnvfrymg the spirt of the grcv^d 

* man to heai-en/ both of aeiisj ttDdemess Lnd grace. ' A 

* skeleton discovering the first sj-nptoms c-f re-anim^tic-n on 

* the sounding of the archangel's trump/ is precifieiy the s^me 
oompositioo as one introduced in TA^ Grazr, except that in the 
earlier desgn the foreshortened figure of the archangel is 
different and finer. 

Throug^iouty the familiar abstractions Death and Time arc 
originally conceived, as they had need be, recurring so fre- 
quently. They arc personified by grand, colossal figures. 
Instead of the hacknied convention of a skeleton. Death 
appears as a solemn, draped, visionary figure. So, too, the 



140 UFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1797—99. 

conventional wingrs of angel and spirit are dispensed with. 
The literalness with which the poet's metaphors are occa- 
sionally embodied is a startling and not always felicitous 
invasion of the province of words. As when Death summons 
the living * from sleep to his kingdom the grave/ with a hand- 
bell; or 'plucks the sun from his sphere.' Or again, when 
a personification of the Sun hides his face at the crucifixion ; 
or another of Thunder, directs the poet to admiration of God ; 
all which difficulties are fearlessly handled. Any Ibss daring 
man would have fared worse. In Blake's conceptions it is 
hit or miss, and the miss is a wide one : witness the ' Resurrec- 
tion of our Saviour,' and 'Our Saviour in the furnace of 
affliction ; ' large, soulless figures, quite destitute of Blake's 
genius. 

Excepting one or two such as I have last named, familiarity 
does much to help the influence of these, as of all Blake's de- 
signs ; to deepen the significance of our artist's high spiritual 
commentary on the poet ; to modify the monotony of the 
appeal. The first unpleasant effect wears off of the conven- 
tional mannikins which here represent humanity, wherewith 
gigantic Time and Death disport on the page. Art hath her 
tropes as well as poetry. At this very time was preparing, 
and in 1802 was published by Vemor and Hood, and the 
trade, an octavo edition of Youngs illustrated by Stothard, 
which did prove successful. Blake's Young compares ad- 
vantageously, I may add, with Stothard's, whose designs, 
with some exceptions, display a wexy awkward attempt to 
reconcile the insignia of the matter-of-fact world with those 
of the spiritual. Better Blake's nude figures (in which great 
sacrifices are made to preserve decorum), better his favourite, 
simple draperies of close-fitting garments, and his typical 
impersonation of * the author,' than Stothard's clerical gentle- 
man, in full canonicals, looking, with round-eyed wonder, at 
the unusual phenomenon of winged angels fluttering above. 

Returning to Blake's career, I find him, in 1799, exhibiting 
a picture at the Academy, The Last Supper. * Verily I say 



kl AT WORK FOR THE PfBLISHER& I+l 

yon that odc of yoa shrill betriy me.' Among the 
ivii^ of die same ysu are some sl^ht ones after the 
ns of Flaxman for a projected colossal statue of the 
one sort for Greenwich Hill, to commemorate Great 
in's naval triumphs. They illustiate the sculptor's L^tt<fr 
larto pamphlet, addressed to the committee which had 
id the scheme of such a monument. It is a curious 
iblet to look at now. Flaxman's design, rigidly dassiotl 
Kirse, is not without recommendations, on paper. There 

idea in it, a freshness, purity, grand simplicity we %'ainty 
for in the Aigand-Iamp st>'Ie of the Trafalgar Square 
im, or in any other monument erected of late by the 
isb, M unhappy in their public works. 




CHAPTER XVI. 

A NEW LIFE. 1799— 1800. [iBT. 42^43.] 

About this time (1800) the ever-friendly Flaxman gave 
Blake an introduction which had important consequences ; 
involving a sudden change of residence and mode of life. 
This was in recommending him to Hayley, *poet,' country 
gentleman, friend and future biographer of Cowper ; in which 
last capacity the world alone remembers him. Tlun^ though 
few went to see his plays, or read his laboured Life of Milton^ 
he retained a traditional reputation on the strength of almost 
his first poem, — still his magnum opus, after nearly twenty 
years had passed since its appearence, — ^the Triumphs of 
Temper, He held, in fact, an honoured place in contemporary 
literature ; his society eagerly sought and obtained, by lovers 
of letters ; to mere ordinary squires and neighbours sparingly 
accorded ; to the majority point-blank refused. His name 
continued to be held in esteem among a slow-going portion 
of the world, long after his literary ware had ceased to be 
marketable. People of distinction and ' position in society/ 
princesses of the blood, and others, when visiting Bognor, 
would, even many years later, go out of their way to see him, 
as if he had been a Wordsworth. 

Between Flaxman and the Hermit of Eartham, as the 
book-loving squire delighted to subscribe himself, friendly 
relations had, for some twenty years, subsisted. During three 
of these, Hayley's acknowledged son (he had no legitimate 



iBT. 42-43.] A NEW LIFE. 143 

children), Thomas Alphonso, had been an articled pupil 
of the sculptor's. Early in 1798, beginnings of curvature of 
the spine had necessitated a return from Flaxman's roof into 
Sussex. There, after two years' more suffering, he died of 
the accumulated maladies engendered in a weakly constitution 
by sedentary habits ; a victim oi forcing, I suspect. 

In 1799, the author of the Triumphs of Temper was seeing 
through the press one of his long Poetical Essays^ as smooth 
and tedious as the rest, on Sculpture ; in the form of * Epistles 
to Flaxman.' It was published in 1800, with three trivial 
illustrations. Two of these are engraved by Blake : The 
Death of Demosthenes f after a bald outline by Hayley junior, 
whom the father easily persuaded himself into believing, as 
well as styling, his * youthful Phidias ; ' and a portrait of the 
' young sculptor,' after a medallion by his master, Flaxman, 
the drawing of which was furnished Blake by Howard ; the 
combined result being indifferent. /This was the occasion of 
Blake's first coming into direct personal communication with 
Hayley, to whom he submitted an impression of the plate 
of The Death of Demosthenes^ which * has been approved,* he 
writes, February 18th, 1800, 'by Mr. Flaxman ;' adding his 
hopes that the young sculptor ' will soon be well enough to 
'make hundreds ef designs both for the engraver and the 
sculptor.' j 

On April 25th, 1800, the long intermittent tragedy of 
Cowper's life came to an end, amid dark and heavy clouds : 
the last years of suffering having been smoothed by a pension 
obtained through Haylcy's intercessioa A week later died 
Hayley's hapless son. And our poor bard had to solace 
himself in his own way, by inditing sonnets to his child's 
memory, * on his pillow/ at four o'clock in the morning ; a 
daily sonnet or two soon swelling into MS. volumes. 
TBlak^ to whom death ever seemed but as ^ the going out of 
one loom into another,' was, of all men, one who could offer con- 
solation as sincere as his sympathy. On hearing the sorrowful 
news he «TOte at once the following characteristic letter : — 



144 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i799— 1800. 

uDear Sir, 

I am very sorry for your immense loss, which is a repetition 
of what all feel in this valley of misery. and happiness mixed. I 
send the shadow of the departed angel, and hope the likeness is 
improved. The lips I have again lessened as you advise and done a 
good many other softenings to the whole. I know that our deceased 
friends are more really with us than when they were apparent to our 
mortal part. Thirteen years ago I lost a brother and with his spirit 
I converse daily and hourly in the spirit, and see him in my remem- 
brance, in the regions of my imagination ; I hear his advice and even 
now write from his dictate. Forgive me for expressing to you my 
enthusiasm which I wish all to partake of^ since it is to me a source 
of immortal joy, even in this world. By it I am the companion of 
angels. May you continue to be so more and more ; and to be more 
and more persuaded that every mortal loss is an immortal gain. 
The ruins of Time build mansions in Eternity. 

I have also sent a proof of Pericles for your remarks, thanking you 
for the kindness with which you express them, and feeling heartily 
your grief with a brother's sympathy. 

I remain. 

Dear Sir, 

Your humble servant, 

William Blake. 
Lambeth, May 6M, i8oa 

\^The Pericles in question is an outline engraving of a 
medallion in the Townly collection which forms the frontis- 
piece to Hayley's Essay on Sculpture, 

]* The shadow of the departed angel,* here spoken of, may 
possibly be the sepia drawing, which subsequently passed 
into the hands of Mr. George Smith, and was by him bound 
up in a volume of Blakiana containing many other items of 
great interest. At the sale of that gentleman's library, at 
Christie's, April, 1880, this volume fetched £6S. 

As further consolation, Hayley resolved on ample memoirs 
of son and friend. To the biography of Cowper he was 
ultimately urged by Lady Hesketh herself. During one of 
his frequent flying visits to town, and his friends the Meyers, 
at Kew, in June, 1800, and while he, nothing loth, was being 



./• 



ed to tSic ta ^ ▼mxnf Iswvr- ii*i ti?* nss. *-* 
ed of hcLpirng i oaBEr-m?' icrnt jr rir -srsrt'-y^-nrrr l 
e to cssgintrt lie iliisi:«n'yi? r i;r ^r trr^ 
in the saiat i«r»sci. ii^lii^wn r:** ir-.n^-'it u- 
■me asd -tpc it J^icnaiii iiii. nrr-ir i**- ^./-; ;r ^-^^- 
light be 2«ar tiac u:^:.:; Trr^-mi^- ^-r-^.r ^. -r — , 

gilt to p2& 'B^cti i'jr.::zrSL ir T^rin^^-^r ir*- j 

led into oacaiiuL it tiit v>r7 iyr^^^iz • vr- ri. 
s ^leedSj aificia'jiM::- lii:. .'- -z' jt-i^- <-. ^', ..., 

me, csuxx3ntg*d -xtlslzk u; iir. v>?*^rrt. u ^.-.iv 

his :ncsii JCr. hvrr^ t^ -*,-:,^ i:.j*j.. ^.-^..r^j. ^ 

OOfpy oi vat 7r:atmpn:i tf ^ewtpr- -Krr-i -ri: . -?: 



g-i^^s- \r^ ^ikjrjL ^j^jz:js^r\ r- o-r.-^ - 



se, — of Hzy'jiinri ^r^r^txTL 'i\r -^rr. -^j^^ .^ 
ate OCT ri!«njui v^ rxr-nf^. c. >^ ,*-* ^ 
. It i$ Ss::::u. ini'^ =i ici2.va^^:^;:^#- Jif ^^ 
i: — 

To tiT TDVs: fcTi*>r r •;- ». ,» ^^^ ^ ^ 



r < 



*• * •^.- :. 



Hercules Buiidiagt v-ai •rACiiir^ss-v^ / • ^ > ^ . 
where B];&ke i*;^«n Ui?*a v*>rf •-.. ^ •x.^, ^ x^ 
passed in the w^untn 3">, ra: w^r n . -^ .„.,i^ 
If ley in his 6fty-*tn>aiu. ii >.uj;s.& jc^-^^ ^ 
OL. I. ,^ 



146 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1799— i8oa 

to Felpham to look at his future home, and secure a house ; 
which he did at an annual rent of twenty pounds : not being 
provided with one rent-free by Hayley, as some supposed, — a 
kind of patronage which would have ill-suited the artist's 
independent spirit The poet was [not even his landlord, 
owning, in fact, no property in the village beyond what he 
had bought to build his house on. /JBlake's cottage belonged 

uy ^p to the landlord of the Fox InnfJ 

Hayley, whose forte was not economy nor "prudent conduct 
of any kind, had, by ill-judged generosities and lavish ex- 
penditure, seriously incumbered the handsome estate inherited 
from his father. Felpham, his present retreat, lay some six 
miles off the patrimonial ' paradise,', as he, for once, not hyper- 
bolically styled it, — romantic Eartham, a peaceful, sequestered 
spot among the wooded hills stretching southward from the 
Sussex Downs ; a hamlet made up of some dozen widely- 
scattered cottages, a farm-house or two, a primitive little 
antique church, and the comfortable modem 'great house,' 
lying high, in the centre of lovely sheltered gardens and 
grounds, commanding wide, varied views of purple vale and 
^ ' gleaming sea. At Felpham, during the latter years of his 

son's life, he had built a marine cottage, planned to his own 
fancy, whither to retire and retrench, while he let his place at 
Eartham. It was a cottage with an ' embattled turret ; with 
a library fitted up with busts and pictures; a 'covered way 
for equestrian exercise,' and a well-laid-out garden ; all as a 
first step in the new plans of economy. His son passed the 
painful close of his ill-starred existence in it ; and here 
Hayley himself had now definitely taken up his abode. 
He continued there till his death in 1820; long before which 
he had sold Eartham to Huskisson, the statesman ; ^hose 

f • widow continued to inhabit it for many years J 

'* On the eve of removing from Lambeth, in the middle of 

September, was written the following characteristic letter 
from Mrs. Blake to Mrs. Flaxman, — the 'dear Nancy* of 
the sculptor. I am indebted for a copy of it to the courtesy 



A XXW LITL. ix: 






of Mrs. Fl^xxnaoBts ssar. :he laz£ Miss pgrrr^a:?. C^onc- 
teristic, I meas. ct FlaVr : ir tieogi tze wlie be the 
nominal inditer. tJse r:saA3d is rbvjr^isly tie isricr. Tze 
very hand-writing car: iarflj be ii^cr^siec rr:::i zisL 
The verses with wrfci r: iccci-«fes n^v E= trer irtlss 
spiritual simplkftv. aVc-gc n^V wiri rlie i'.'V-*' -1''" 
innocence and Exp^ 



From JffT. EZxi£ ti Jf^z. 
My 



* I hope you will net thfiSc tt* z'^zLl f:r^ vicir senrloss to 

* us, or any way neglect t: 'yjr^ izc rsrzerrbir with arectfca 

* even the hem of yo^zz g^mt::- a"* frieed prss=e en 

* your kindness in ncgicctir^ :: b=T^ railed ::: }-:u since =7.y 

* husband's first retam zri-^L Fe'.s-'^m, Wi zi%-e beer in- 

* cessantly busj* in g-jt gr^at remiTil : b-t can nrrer think 

* of going without first v^y^jg c-nr prt-cer ziry to y: j =ni 

* Mr. Flaxman. We Entead to call c^ 5.:T^iav sitemocn :n 

* Hampstead. to take farr^^II : iZ things befn^ no^ ne^r'y 
' completed for our setting f-rth en T-esd^y n::rn:n5. It is 
'only sixty miles and Lambeth cnt hnnfred : f:r the terrible 
'desert of London was between. My hufband has been 
'obliged to finish several thin^? nece«5ar>- to be nnished 
'before our migration. The £Trill-,*5 cill us. fieetfa^ past 
'our window at this moment. O I h'-^T we del'ght :n talking 
'of the pleasure we shall have :n preparing you a summer 
'bower at Felpham. And we not only taik, but behold ! the 
'angels of our journey have fnsprred a song to you : — 

To my dear Friend, ilrs. Anna Fl-zxinan. 



This song to the Cower of Kixman? jiv; 
To the blossom of hope, for a «»€« dr^-ov: 
Do all that you can and all that yon may. 
To entice him to Felpham and £ar away. 

L 



148 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1799— 1800. 

Away to sweet Felpham, for Heaven is there; 

The ladder of Angels descends through the air. 

On the turret its spiral does softly descend, 

Through the village then winds, at my cot it does end. 

Vou stand in the village and look up to heaven; 
The precious stairs glitter in flight seventy-seven; 
And my brother is there; and my friend and thine 
Descend and ascend with the bread and the wine. 

The bread of sweet thought and the wine of delight 
Feed the village of Felpham by day and by night; 
And at his own door the bless'd hermit does stand. 
Dispensing unceasing to all the wide land. 

W. Blake. 

* Receive my and my husband's love and aflfection, and 
' believe me to be yours affectionately, 

'Catherine Blake.' 

'H. B. Lambeth, 14 Sept. i8oa* 

\'The labour of preparation and the excitement of eager 
anticipation proved almost too much for the affectionate and 
devoted Kate. September i6th, a few days before they 
started, Blake writes to Hayley, ' My dear and too careful 

* and over-joyous woman has exhausted her strength. . . 
' Eartham will be my first temple and altar ; my wife is like 

* a flame of many colours of precious jewels whenever she 

* hears it named. ' "7 

A letter from Blake's own hand to Flaxman, penned im- 
mediately after arrival in Sussex, has been put into print 
by our excellent friend Smith. This very physiognomic com- 
position, lucid enough to all who know Blake, needlessly 
puzzled Allan Cunningham. It does not, to my mind, 
separate, as he maintains, into two distinct parts of strongly 
contrasted spirit; nor does it betoken that irreconcilable 
discord of faculties he imagines. The mingling of sound 
sagacity with the utmost licence of imagination showed itself 
at every hour of Blake's life. He would, at any moment 
speak as«he here writes, and was not a mere sensible mortal 



iCT. 42-^43-1 A NEW LIFE, I49 

in the morning, and a wild visionary in the evening. Visionary 
glories floated before his eyes even while he stooped over 
the toilsome copper-plafe. There was no pause or* hiatus in 
the life-long wedding of spiritual and earthly things in his 
daily course ; no giving the reins to imagination at one time 
more than other. 

And if immortality, if eternity, mean something, if they 
imply a pre-existence as well as a post-mortal one, that which 
startles the practical mind in this letter is not so wholly mad ; 
especially if we make due allowance for the dialect ^ the un- 
wonted phraseology (most very orig^inal men have their 
phraseology), which long custom had made familiar and 
anything but extravagant to him, or to those who have read 
themselves into Blake's writing and design ; a dialect so 
full of trope and metaphor, dealt with as if they were literal, 
not sjmibolic facts. 



'Dear Sculptor of Eternity, 

* We are safe arrived at our cottage, which is more 
' beautiful than I thought it, and more convenient It is a 
' perfect model for cottages, and I think for palaces of mag- 
'nificence, only enlaiging not altering its proportions, and 
' adding ornaments and not principles. Nothing can be more 
'grand than its simplicity and usefulness. Simple without 

* intricacy, it seems to be the spontaneous expression of 

* humanity, congenial to the wants of man. No other formed 
' house can ever please me so well, nor shall I ever be per- 

* suaded, I believe, that it can be improved either in beauty 

* or use. 

•Mr. Hayley received us with his usual brotherly affection. 

* I have begun to work. Felpham is a sweet place for study* 
'because it is more spiritual than London. Heaven opens 
' here on all sides her golden gates : her Windows are not 

* obstructed by vapours ; voices of celestial inhabitants 
*arc more distinctly heard, and their forms more distinctly 
' seen ; and my cottage is also a shadow of thdr houses. 



150 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i799— 1800. 

* My wife and sister are both well, courting Neptune for an 

* embrace. 

* Our journey was very pleasant ; and though we had a 
great deal of luggage, no grumbling. All was cheerfulness 
and good humour on the road, and yet we could not arrive 
at our cottage before half-past eleven at night, owing to the 
necessary shifting of our luggage from one chaise to another ; 
for we had seven different chaises, and as many diflereni^ 
drivers. We set out between six and seven in the morning 
of Thursday, with sixteen heavy boxes and portfolios full o 
prints. 

' And now begins a new life, because another covering ^t 
earth is shaken off. I am more famed in Heaven for my 
works than I could well conceive. In my brain are studies 
and chambers filled with books and pictures of old» which I 
wrote and painted in ages of eternity before my mortal life ; 
and those works are the delight and study of archangels. 
Why then should I be anxious about the riches or fame of 
mortality ? The Lord our Father will do for us and with us 
according to His Divine will, for our good. 

' You, O dear Flaxman I are a sublime archangel, — my 
friend and companion from eternity. In the Divine bosom 
is our dwelling-place. I look back into the regions of remi- 
niscence, and behold our ancient days before this earth 
appeared in its vegetated mortality to my mortal vegetated 
eyes. I see our houses of eternity which can never be 
separated, though our mortal vehicles should stand at the 
remotest comers of heaven from each other. 

* Farewell, my best friend ! Remember me and my wife in 
love and friendship to our dear Mrs. Flaxman, whom we 
ardently desire to entertain beneath our thatched roof of 
rusted gold. And believe me for ever to remain your grate- 
ful and affectionate 



'William Blake.* 



' Felphatn, Sept. 21st, i8oo. 
Sunday morniiij^.' 



ISO 

* My wife 

* embp" 



'is 



•n 
•a 
'e 
•s 
'r 



•r 
'fu. 



* Fclp. 
Sii 



iBT. 4^—43.] LETTERS. 1 5 1 

From this letter it appears the squire's method of travelling 
by post-chaise was adopted by the painter. His sister, nearly 
seven years younger than himself, made one in the party and 
in Blake's family during his residence at Felpham. ■ 

/Blake also wrote, during this time, at frequent intervals, to 
Mr. Butts, letters which in their full and frank utterance show 
that this steady and almost life-long buyer of his works was a 
8}rmpathetic friend as well as a constant patron. 

flThe first of these letters, after describing the journey and 
the cottage in words almost identical with those used in the 
letter to Flaxman just quoted, continues : — 

[Date of Post-mark, Sept. 23, 1800.] 

^Dear Friend of my Angel's, 



The villagers of Felpham are not mere rustics ; they are polite 
and modest Meat is cheaper than in London ; but the sweet air 
and the voices of winds, trees, and birds, and the odours of the 
happy ground, make it a dwelling for immortals. Work will go on here 
with God-speed. A roller and two harrows lie before my window. 
I met a plough on my first going out at my gate the first morning 
after my arrival, and the ploaghboy said to the ploughman, * Father, 
the gate is open.' I have begun to work, and find that I can work 
with greater pleasure than ever, hoping soon to give you a proof that 
Felpham is propitious to the arts. 

God bless youl I shall wish for you on Tuesday evening as 
usual. Pray, give my and my wife's and sister's love and respects 
to Mrs. Butts. Accept them yourself, and believe me for ever 

Your affectionate and obliged friend, 

William Blake. 

My sister will be in town in a week, and bring with her your 
account, and whatever else I can finish. 

Direct to me — 

Blake, Felpham, near Chichester, 

Sussex. 



/^, 



152 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. {i799— 1800. 

L Belonging also to early days at Felpham is the following :— 

Felpham, Oct. 2, i8oa 
r Friend of Religion and Order, 

I thank you for your very beautiful and encouraging verses, 
which I account a crown of laurels, and I also thank you for your 
reprehension of follies by me fostered. Your prediction will, I hope, 
be fulfilled in roe, and in future I am the determined advocate of 
religion and humility — the two bands of society. Having been so 
full of the business of settling the sticks and feathers of my nest, I 
have not got any forwarder with the Three Maries, or with any other 
of your commissions ; but hope, now I have commenced a new life 
of industry, to do credit to that new life by improved works. Receive 
from me a return of verses, such as Felpham produces by me, though 
not such as she produces by her eldest son. However, such as they 
are, I cannot resist the temptation to send them to you : — 



To my friend Butts I write 
My first vision of light. 
On the yellow sands sitting. 
The sim was emitting 
His glorious beams 
From Heaven's high streams 
Over sea, over land ; 
My eyes did expand 
Into regions of air, 
Away from all care; 
Into regions of fire, 
Remote from desire : 
The light of the morning, 
Heaven's mountains adorning. 
In particles bright, 
The jewels of light 
Distinct shone and clear. 
Amazed, and in fear, 
I each particle gazed^ 
Astonished, amazed ; 
For each was a man 
Human-formed. Swift I ran. 
For they beckon'd to me. 
Remote by the sea, 
Saying : * Each grain of sand, 
Every stone on the land. 
Each irock and each hill, 
Each fountain and rill, 
Each herb and each tree, 



Mountain, hill, earth, and sea, 
Cloud, meteor, and star, 
Are men seen afar.' 
I stopd in the streams 
Of heaven's bright beams, 
And saw Felpham sweet 
Beneath my bright feet, 
In soft female charms ; 
And in her fair arms 
My shadow I knew. 
And my wife's shadow too, 
And my sister and friend. 
We like infants descend 
In our shadows on earth. 
Like a weak mortal birth. 
My eyes more and more. 
Like a sea without shore, 
Continue expanding. 
The heavens commanding, 
Till the jewels of light. 
Heavenly men beaming bright, 
Appeared as one man, 
Who complacent began 
My limbs to infold 
In his beams of bright gold ; 
Like dross purged away, 
All my mire and my clay. 
Soft consumed in delight, 
In his bosom sun-bright 



iBT.4a-^43•l 



LETTERS. 



IS3 



I remain'd. Soft he smil'd. 

And I heard his voice mild. 

Saying: 'This is my fold, 

O thou ram, horn'd with gold, 

Who awakest from sleep 

On the sides of the deep. 

On the mountains around 

The roarings resound 

Of the lion and wolf, 

The loud sea and deep gulf. 



These are guards of my fold, 

thou ram, horn'd with gold !' 
And the voice faded mild, 

1 remain'd as a child ; 
All I ever had known. 
Before me bright shone : 
I saw you and your wife 
By the fountains of life. 
Such the vision to me 
Appeared on the sea. 



\ Mrs. Butts will, I hope, excuse my not having finished the portrait, 
I wait for less hurried moments. Our cottage looks more and more 
beautiful And though the weather is wet, the air is very mild, much 
milder than it was in London when we came away. Chichester is a very 
handsome city, seven miles from us. We can get most conveniences 
there. The country is not so destitute of accommodations to our 
wants as I expected it would be. We have had but little time for 
viewing the country, but what we have seen is most beautiful ; and 
the people are genuine Saxons, handsomer than the people about 
London. Mrs. Butts will excuse the following lines : — 



h. 



TO MRS. BUTTS. 

Wife of the friend of those I most revere, 
Receive this tribute from a harp sincere ; 
Go on in virtuous seed-sowing on mould 
Of human vegetation, and behold 
Your harvest springing to eternal life. 
Parent of youthful minds, and happy wife ! 

W. B. 
I am for ever yours, 

WiLUAM Bl/^ke. 



'1 



/^ 



* I have begun to work,' Blake writes ; on the plates to a 
ballad of Hay-ley's, that is : — Little Tom the Sailor^ written 
and printed for a charitable purpose. The project had been 
set going in Hayley*s fervid head by an account his friend 
Rose the barrister gave of the boy*s heroism and the mother's 
misfortunes, as celebrated in the poem. Hayley was at once 
to write a ballad, Blake to illustrate and engrave it, and the 
broadsheet to be sold for the widow's benefit to the poet's 



154 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i799->8<» 

friends, or any who would join in helping the ' necessities of a 
meritorious woman;' in which the brochure, says Hayle/s 
Memoirs^ proved successful. 

The poem, like some others of Hayle/s, has simplicity, 
and perhaps even a touch of sweetness. At any rate, it is 
brief. If its author had not been cursed with the fatal facility 
of words and numbers, he might have done better things. A 
tinge of Blake-like feeling seems to have passed for once into 
the smooth verse of the poet of Eartham. The ballad was 
written 22nd September, 1800; Blake's broadsheet bears date 
October 5 th. Both verse and designs, of which there are two, 
one at the head, the other at the foot of the page, are executed 
on metal — pewter, it is said — the designs being graver work, 
in the same manner as on wood, the ballad and imprint bitten 
in with acid. The impressions were printed off by himself 
and Mrs. Blake : — * Printed for and sold by the Widow Spicer 
of Folkstone, for the benefit of her orphans.' The sheet is 
now exceedingly scarce, as broadsheets always become, even 
when far more widely circulated than this could ever have 
been. I have come across but two or three copies. 

The engravings are vigorous and effective, in an unpretend- 
ing, rude style. The designs have all Blake's characteristic 
directness and natveti. At the foot we see the future widow 
leaving her humble cottage to seek her sick husband, and 
turning her head wistfully round as she steps forth on her 
way ; her little son rocking the cradle within. Around 
stretches a landscape in the typical style of Poussin, — wood, 
and winding path, and solemn distant downs. It is a grand 
and simple composition. The engraving at the head of the 
sheet represents the sailor-boy aloft on the shrouds, climbing 
to the top-mast, the embodied spirit of his father bursting 
with extended arms from the midst of the storm-cloud and 
forked lightnings. This picture also is full of high feeling. 

To those disposed to judge a work of art vulgarly by what 
the eye merely can see, instead of by the emotions aroused, it 
may look like gross exaggeration to speak of grandeur in so 



iCT. 42-43-] A NEW LIFE. 155 

rude and slight a work. But the kindled imagination of the 
artist can speak eloquently through few and simple strokes* 
and with them kindle imagination in others. This is more 
than the most skilful piece of mere artistic handicraft can do, 
which as it does not come from, neither can it appeal to, the 
mind. Hence we venture to claim for these designs, a place 
among the genuinely great in kind, though not in degree, of 
excellence. In truth, there are very few works by Blake for 
which thus much, at least, cannot be claimed. 




CHAPTER XVII. 

POET HAYLEY AND FELPHAM. l8oo— 1801. [mt. 43-44.] 

Blake's life at Felpham was a happy one. In Hayley he 
had a kind and friendly neighbour ; notwithstanding disparity 
of social position and wider discrepancies of training and 
mental character. Hayley, the valued friend of Gibbon in 
one generation, of Cowper in the next, whose reputation, like 
many another reputation then and since, was for a time in 
excess of his literary deservings, has since been, even from a 
literary point of view, just as disproportionately despised, — 
sneered at with excess of rigour. By Allan Cunningham he 
is never mentioned, in connexion with Blake or Romney, but 
to be injuriously spoken of, and the worst construction put 
upon his motives. This he does, swayed by the gratuitous 
assertions of Romney's too acrimonious son, and gfiving the 
rein to one of those unmeasured dislikes the stalwart Scot 
was prone to take into his head ; witness his distorted portrait 
of the amiable, urbane Sir Joshua. 

As a poet, Hayley was no worse, if little better, than his 
compeers ; Cowper and Bums standing of course apart. One 
must judge him not as a literary man, but as a literary 
country gentleman ; an amateur, whose words flowed a 
thousand times faster than his thoughts. His Life of Cowper 
was one of the earliest and best examples in that modem 
school of biography wherein authentic letters form the basis, 
and the hero draws his own portrait. Mason's Life of Gray 



Arr.45-44*] POET HAYLEY AND FELPHAM. I $7 

was the first, but not an unexceptionable one ; Mason being 
at the pains of mutilating and otherwise doctoring Gray*s 
lively scholarly gossip. Hay ley's own part in the Li/e of 
Cawper is well and gracefully written, in the smooth style, — 
in a style, which is something. 

If Hayley was always romancing, as it were, which his 
position in life allowed ; always living in a fool's paradise of 
ever-dispelled, ever-renewed self-deceptions about the com- 
monest trifles; seeing all men and things athwart a fog of 
amiability ; it was not in the main a worse world than com- 
mon, and sometimes it was a useful life to others. The 
pension his bustling energy obtained for Cowper outweighs 
many an absurdity and inanity. He was surely an en- 
durable specimen, for variety's sake, among corn-law and 
game-preserving squires. A sincere, if conventional love of 
literature, independence of the great world, and indifference 
to worldly distinctions, are, after all, not criminal foibles. 
Pertinacious, wrongheaded, and often foolish in his actions; 
weakly greedy of applause, as ready to lavish it ; prone to 
exaggeration of word or thought ; without reticence : he 
was also an agreeable companion, really kind-hearted and 
generous ; though vanity mixed itself with all he did ; for 
ever going out of his way to befriend some one, to set in 
motion some well-intended, ill-considered scheme. For Blake, 
— ^let us remember, to the hermit's honour, — Hayley con- 
tinued to entertain unfeigned respect And the self-tutored, 
wilful visionary must have been a startling phenomenon to 
so conventional a mind. During the artist's residence at 
Felpham hb literary friend was constantly on the alert to 
advance his fortunes. 

Another source of happiness for Blake at Felpham was 
the natural beauty which surrounded him, and which the 
transplanted Londoner keenly enjoyed. *A cottage which 
is more beautiful than I had thought it, and more convenient ; 
a perfect model for cottages,' Blake had written of his new 
home on his first arrival It is still standing, and is on the 



l6o LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1800-1801. 

English village church. One especially pleasant summer- 
walk is that by footpath to the village of Walberton, some 
five miles nprthward. Bognor was not then ugly and re- 
pulsive as great part of it is now. At all events, there were 
none of those ghastly blocks of untenanted, unfinished 
houses, dreary monuments of building infatuation, which 
lower upon the traveller and put him out of heart as he 
approaches from Felpham, looking like so many builders' 
night-mares ; erections that bespeak an almost brutish 
absence of natural instincts for the beautiful or expressive 
in construction. It was only some nine years previous to 
Blake's residence in Sussex that Sir Richard Hotham^ the 
retired hatter, had set Bognor going as a fashionable 
watering-place. He had found it a sequestered hamlet of 
smugglers. The ' retired and beautiful village of Hothamton,' 
as it was for a time called, included then but fifty houses, 
Hothampton Place, viz. and those which form now the 
eastern section of Bognor, visited or tenanted only by a 
select and aristocratic few. 

By the sounding shore, visionary conversations were held 
with many a majestic shadow from the Past — Moses and the 
Prophets, Homer, Dante, Milton : ' All,' said Blake, when 
questioned on these appearances, ' all majestic shadows, grey 
but luminous, and superior to the common height of men.' 
Sometimes his wife accompanied him, seeing and hearing 
/ nothing, but fully believing in what he saw. By the sea, or 
pacing the pretty slip of garden in front of his house, many 
fanciful sights were witnessed by the speculative eyes. The 
following highly imaginative little scene was transacted there. 
It is related by Allan Cunningham. ' Did you ever see a 
fairy*s funeral, madam } ' he once said to a lady who happened 
to sit by him in company. 'Never, sir,' was the answer. 
' I have I ' said Blake, ' but not before last night I was 
' vyalking alone in my garden ; there was great stillness among 
' the branches and fiowers, and more than common sweetness 
' in the air ; I heard a low and pleasant sound, and I knew 



«. 43-44-1 POET HAYLEY AND FELPHAM. l6l 

'not whence it came. At last I saw the broad leaf of 
'a flower move, and underneath I saw a procession of 
' creatures, of the size and colour of green and grey grass- 
' hoppers^ bearing a body laid out on a rose-leaf, which 
'they buried with songs, and then disappeared. It was a 
' fairy funeral ! ' 

Among the engraving^s executed by Blake*s industrious 
hands during his first year at Felpham, I make note of a fine 
one of Michael Angelo, at the end of the first edition (in 
quarto) of Fuseli's famous Lectures on Painting, — the first 
three, delivered at the Academy in March 1801, published 
in May. It is an interesting and characteristic full-length 
portrait. The great Florentine is standing, looking out on 
the world with intent, searching gaze, the Coliseum in the 
background. This and the circular plate on the title-page 
of the same volume, well engraved by F. Legat, were both 
designed by Fuseli himself. Grand and suggestive, in a dim 
allegoric way, is this drooping female figure, seated on the 
earth, her crossed arms flung doym in expressive abandon^ 
the iace bowed between them and hidden by her streaming 
hair. This is a design I could swear to as Blake's whether 
'adopted' by Fuseli or not 

Y Hayley, desiring the artist's worldly advancement, introduced 
him to many of the neighbouring gentry ; among them Lord 
^[remont of Pctworth, Lord Bathurst of Lavant, Mrs. Poole ; 
and obtained him commissions for miniatures. Some of 
which, reports Hayley, ' that singularly industrious man who 
applied himself to various branches of the art' and 'had wonder- 
ful talents for original design' executed 'very happily.* 
Blake, indefatigable in toil, would also, at his craft of en- 
graving, honestly execute for bread whatever was set him, good 
or bad. Humble as the task was, for so imaginative a man, of 
tracing servilely, line by line, other men's conceptions, he would 
patiently and imperturbably work at a design, however inferior 
to his own, though with an obvious and natural absence of 
enthusiasm. Blake's docility, however, had a limit. He was 

VOL. I. M 



1 62 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1800-1801. 

wont to say he bad refused but one commission in his life,— 
to paint a set of handscreens for a lady of quality, one of the 
great people to whom Hayley had introduced him ; that he 
declined ! For Lady Bathurst it was, I think, — the Bathursts 
had then a seat near Lavant, which subsequently, like most 
other estates in the neighbourhood, was absorbed by the 
Duke of Richmond. Blake taught for a time in her family, 
A and was admired by them. The proposal was, I believe, 
that he should be engaged at a regular annual salary for 
tuition and services such as the above ; as painter in ordinary, 
in fact, to this noble family. ) Besides bestirring himself to 
obtain Blake commissions, Hayley did what his means would 
allow to furnish employment himself. The interior of his 
new villa was fitted up in a manner bespeaking the cultivated 
man of letters and taste, — thanks, in great part, to his friendly 
relations with such artists as Flaxman and Romney, — was 
adorned with busts, statues, and pictures. Among the latter 
were interesting portraits of distinguished contemporaries and 
friends, and of the Hermit himself; all from Romney's hand, 
and [originally painted for the library at Eartham. There 
was one of Gibbon, sitting and conversing ; there were others, 
in crayons, of Cowper, Charlotte Smith, Anna 'Seward, 
Madame de Genlis ; above all, there were fine studies of Lady 
Hamilton in various fancy characters, as Cassandra, Andro- 
meda, Cecilia, Sensibility^ &c. When, twenty years earlier, 
Hayley had built himself, at Eartham, a large and handsome 
room, specially to contain his fine collection of books in many 
languages, Flaxman had superintended the sculptured orna- 
ments, and had modelled for it busts of the poet and his 
friend Romney. The new library at Felpham, Blake, during 
his residence in Sussex, decorated with temperas : — eighte^nr 
heads of the poets, life size, some accompanied by apj^ropriate 
subsidiary compositions. Among them were Shakespeare, 
Homer, Camoens, Sir Philip Sidney, Cowper, Hayley himself 
(encircled by cooing doves). Within twenty years after Hay- 
ley's death, the marine villa passed, by sale,' from the hands 



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164 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1800— 1801. 

My wife joins with me in duty and affection to you. Please to 
remember us both in love to Mr. and Mrs. Flaxman, and 

Believe me to be your affectionate, 

Enthusiastic, hope-fostered visionary, 

WiLUAM Blake. 

Felpham, 26M November^ iSoa 

Next in date comes a letter to Mr. Butts which betokens 
still the same unclouded horizon : — 

My dear Sir, 

The necessary application to my duty, as well to my old 
as new friends, has prevented me from that respect I owe in particular 
to you. And your accustomed forgiveness of my want of dexterity 
in certain points emboldens me to hope that forgiveness to be con- 
tinued to me a little longer, when I shall be enabled to throw off all 
obstructions to success. 

Mr. Hayley acts like a prince. I am at complete ease. But I» 
wish to do my duty, especially to you, who were the precursor of my 
present fortune. I never will send you a picture unworthy of 
my present proficiency. I soon shall send you several My present 
engagements are in miniature-painting. Miniature has become a 
goddess in my eyes, and my friends in Sussex say that I excel in the 
pursuit. I have a great many orders, and they multiply. 

Now, let me entreat you to give me orders to furnish every accom- 
modation in my power to receive you and Mrs. Butts. I know, my 
cottage is too narrow for your ease and comfort. V/e have one room 
in which we could make a bed to lodge you both ; and if this is 
sufficient, it is at your service. But as beds and rooms and acconmio- 
dations are easily procured by one on the spot, permit me to offer 
my service in either way ; either in my cottage, or in a lodging in the 
village, as is most agreeable to you, if you and Mrs. Butts should 
think Bognor a pleasant relief from business in the siunmer. It will 
give me the utmost delight to do my best. 

Sussex is certainly a happy place, and Felpham in particular is the 
sweetest spot on earth ; at least it is so to me and my good wife, who 
desires her kindest love to Mrs. Butts and yourself. Accept mine 
also, and believe me to remain 

Your devoted 

William Blake. 

Fdpham^ May lo, 1801. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

WORKING HOURS. LETTERS TO BUTTS. 1801— 1803. [^t. 44-46.] 

In the latter part of 1801 Hayley began spinning a series 
of Ballads on Anecdotes relating to Animals y of very different 
merit from Little Tom tlie Sailor of the previous year ; 
empty productions, long-winded, bald, devoid of every poetic 
idrtue save simplicity, — in the unhappy sense of utter in- 
sipidity. What must the author of the Songs of Innocence 
have thought of them } On these Ballads hung a project, 
as usual with Hayley. They were to be illustrated by Blake, 
printed by another protigi^ Seagrave, a Chichester book- 
seller, and published for the artist*s sole benefit ; in realising 
which they were fated to have but ill success. Our hermit 
sincerely believed in contributing verse of his he was giving 
money's worth ; in that serene faith meaning as generously as 
when handing over tangible coin. 

During the progress of the Life of Coivper, and of the 
Ballads y the letters of Hayley to the Rev. John Johnson 
supply glimpses, here and there, of Blake, at his engraving, 
or in familiar intercourse with his patron ; and they supply 
more than glimpses of the writer himself, in his accustomed 
undress of easy, slip-shod vanity and amiability. This 
Johnson was Cowper's cousin, his right-hand man in latter 
years, and faithful guardian ultimately. The letters are en- 
tombed in Hayley 's Memoirs of himself and his son, edited 



1 66 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1801— 1803. 

or, at all events, seen through the press, by the amiable 
clergyman in 1823. 

' Our good Blake,' scribbles the artist's patron, one hot 
day in August, 1801, *is actually in labour with a young lion, 

* The new bom cub will probably kiss your hands in a week 
or two. T/u Lion is his third Ballad,' (none are yet printed) 
' and we hope his plate to it will surpass its predecessors. 

* Apropos of this good, warm-hearted artist. He has a great 
wish that you should prevail on Cowper s dear Rose ' (Mrs. 
Anne Bodham, a cousin of the poet on the mother's side, and 
the correspondent who sent him that picture of his mother 
which elicited the poem we all know so well) 'to send her 

* portrait of the beloved bard, by Abbott, to Felpham, that 
' Blake may engrave it for the Milton we meditate ; which 
' we devote (you know) to the sublime purpose of raising 
' a monument suited to the dignity of the dear bard, in the 
' metropolis ; if the public show proper spirit (as I am per- 
' suaded it will) on that occasion — a point that we shall put 

* to the test, in publishing the Life.* 

The portrait of Cowper, by Abbot, the Academician, — a very 
prosaic one, — was not, I presume, sent to Felpham ; for it 
was never engraved by Blake. A print of it, by one W. C. 
Edwards, forms the frontispiece to Vol. I. of The Private 
Correspondence of Cowper, edited by Johnson in 1824. The 
scheme here referred to was that of an edition of Cowper's 
unfinished Commentary on Paradise Lost, and MS. trans- 
lations of Milton's Latin and Italian poetry^ together with 
Hayley's previously published, lengthy Life of Milton. The 
whole was to be in three quarto volumes, * decorated with 
engravings,' by Blake, after designs by Flaxman: the 
proceeds to go towards a London monument to Cowper, 
from Flaxman's chisel. The project, like so many from the 
same brain, had to be abandoned for one of later birth : — a 
single quarto, illustrated by Flaxman, of Cowper's Trans- 
lations and Notes on Milton, for the proposed * benefit,' as 
usual, of somebody, — this time of * an orphan godson of the 



A*-^l WORKDCC HOURSl 167 

poet,' which en 1808 actially did take shape: followed in 

1810; hy a 'neat pocket edition/ for* the emolument of 

Cowper^s kinsman, Johnson. 

Slumber 3, itoi : (Hayley to Johnson again) ♦ ♦ ♦ * The 

'good Blake b finishing, very happily, the plate of the 

'poefs mother. He salutes >-ou affectionately.' Octtjt^r i, 

1801 : ' October, you see* is arri\-ed, and you, my dear 

' Johnny, will arrive, I trust, before half this pleasant month 

' shall pass away ; for we want you as a faithful coadjutor 

' in the turret, more than I can express. I say avr, for the 

' warm-heajted indefatigable Blake works daily by my side, 

< on the intended decorations of our biography. Engraving, 

' of all human works, appears to require the largest portion 

' of patience ; and he happily possesses more of that inestim- 

' able virtue than I ever saw united before to an imagination 

* so lively and so prolific. Come, and criticise what we have 

' done ! Come, and assist us to do more ! I want you in a 

' double capacity, — as an excellent scribe, and as an infallible 

' fountain of intelligence for all the latter days of our dear 

•bard.' 

Hayley, whose sight was often weak, availed himself of 

Blake's help, too, as amanuensis, and in other ways during the 

progress of the Life. Blake had thus opportunity to form a 

judgment of Haylcy's mode of dealing with his material ; 

bej0ras not greatly impressed by its candour and fidelity. 

[September iitA, 1801, Blake writes two letters to Mr. 

Butts:— 

Dear Sir, 

I hope you will continue to excuse my want of steady per- 
severance, by which want I am still your debtor, and you so much 
my creditor ; but such as I can be, I will. I can be grateful, and I 
can soon send some of your designs which I have nearly completed. 
In the meantime, by my sister's hands, I transmit to Mrs. Butts an 
attempt at your likeness, which I hope she, who is the best judge, 
will think like. Time flies faster (as seems to me here) than in 
London. I labour incessantly, I accomplish not one-half of what 
I intend, because my abstract folly hurries me often away while I am 
at work, carrying me over mountains and valleys, which are not real, 



/' 



l68 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1801— 1803. 

into a land of abstraction where spectres of the dead wander. This I 
endeavour to prevent ; i, with my whole might, chain my feet to the 
world of duty and reality. But in vain ! the faster I bind, the better 
is the ballast ; for I, so far from being bound down, take the world 
with me in my flights, and often it seems lighter than a ball of wool 
rolled by the wind. Bacon and Newton would prescribe ways of 
making the world heavier to me, and Pitt would prescribe distress 
for a medicinal potion. But as none on earth can give me mental 
distress, and I know that all distress inflicted by Heaven is a mercy, 
a flg for all corporeal ! Such distress is my mock and scorn. Alas ! 
wretched, happy, ineffiectual labourer of Time's moments that I am ! 
who shall deliver me from this spirit of abstraction and improvidence ? 
Such, my dear Sir, is the truth of my state, and I tell it you in pallia- 
tion of my seeming neglect of your most pleasant orders. But I 
have not neglected them ; and yet a year is rolled over, and only now 
I approach the prospect of sending you some, which you may expect 
soon. I should have sent them by my sister ; but, as the coach goes 
three times a week to London, and they will arrive as safe as with 
her, I shall have an opportunity of enclosing several together which 
are not yet completed. I thank you again and again for your 
generous forbearance, of which I have need; and now I must 
express my wishes to see you at Felpham, and to show you 
Mr. Hayley's library, which is still unfinished, but is in a finishing 
way and looks well I ought also to mention my extreme disappoint- 
ment at Mr. Johnson's forgetfulness, who appointed to call on you 
but did not. He is also a happy abstract, known by all his friends 
as the most innocent forgetter of his own interests. He is nephew 
to the late Mr. Cowper, the poet You would like him mucJi. I con- 
tinue painting miniatures, and I improve more and more, as all my 
friends tell me. But my prmcipai labour at this time' is engraving 
plates for Cowper* s Life^ a work of magnitude, whiclx Mr. Hayley is 
now labouring at with all his matchless industry, and which will be a 
most valuable acquisition to literature, not only on account of Mr. 
Hayley's composition, but also as it will contain letters of Cowper to 
his friends — perhaps, or rather certainly, the very best letters that 
ever were published. 

My wife joins with me in love to you and Mrs. Butts, hoping that 
her joy is now increased, and yours also, in an increase of family and 
of health and happiness. 

I remain, dear Sir, 

Ever yours sincerely, 

William Blake. 



44-46.] LETTERS. 1 69 

Fdi^uun Cottage, of cottages the prettiest, 
September ii, 1801. 

est time I have the happiness to see you, I am determined to 
t another portrait of you fh>m life in my best manner, for memory 
not do in such minute operations ; for I have now discovered 
without nature before the painter's eye, he can never produce 
hing in the walks of natural painting. Historical designing is 
tiling and portrait-painting another, and they are as distinct as 
two arts can be. Happy would that man be who could unite 
a! 

.S. — Please to remember our best respects to Mr. Birch, and tell 
diat Felpham men are the mildest of the human race. If it is 
will of Providence, they shall be the wisest We hope that he 
next summer, joke us face to face. 
<xl bless you all ! 

Jcvemher Zth, 1801 : (Hayley to Johnson again) ♦ * * 
nd now let me congratulate you on having travelled 
well through the Odyssey ! ' (an edition of Cowper's 
viMr, with the translator's final touches, which the clergy- 
n was bringing out). ' Blake and I read every evening 
fc copy of the Iliad which your namesake' (the book- 
er) * of St Paul's was so good as to send me ; comparing 
with the first edition, and with the Greek, as we proceed, 
'e shall be glad to see the Odyssey also, as soon as it is 

tibu: 

rhis and other passages in the correspondence show the 
liliar intimacy which had been established between the 
rary gentleman and the artist. The latter evidently spent 
ch of his time, and most of his working hours, in Hayley 's 
ary, in free companionship with its owner ; which in the 
e of so proud and sensitive a man as Blake can only have 
n due to much delicacy and genial courtesy on the part of 

host ; whose manners, indeed, were those of a polished 
ttleman of the old school We can, for a moment, sec the 
Ily assorted pair ; both visionaries, but in how different a 
sc ! the urbane amateur seeing nothing as it reall}- was ; 

painter seeing only, so to speak, the unseen : the fi: 



170 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. (1801—1803. 

a mind full of literary conventions, swiftly writing without 
thought ; the other, with a head just as full of originalities,— 
right or wrong, — patiently busying his hands at his irksome 
craft, while his spirit wandered through the invisible world. 

November \ithy 1801. — Hayley writes to Johnson from the 
house of his friend, Mrs. Poole : ' Your warm-hearted letter 
' (that has met me this instant in the apartments of our bene- 
' volent Paulina, at Lavant) has delighted us all so much (by 
' all^ I mean Paulina, Blake, and myself) that I seize a pen, 
' while the coffee is coming to the table, to tell you with what 

* cordial pleasure we shall expect you and your young pupil 
' If my Epitaph ' (on Mrs. Unwin) * delighted you, believe 

* me, your affectionate reception of it has afforded me equal 
' delight I have been a gpreat scribbler of Epitaphs in the last 
' month, and as you are so kindly partial to my monumental 
' verses, I will transcribe for you even in the bustle of this 
' morning, a recent Epitaph on your humble old friend^ my 

* good William, who closed his height of cheerful and affec- 
' tionate existence (near eighty) this day fortnight, in the 
' great house at Eartham, where Blake and I had the mourn- 
' ful gratification of attending him (by accident) in the few 
' last hours of his life.* 

November 22nd, 1801. * ♦ ♦ « Did I tell you that our excel- 
' lent Blake has wished to have Lawrence's original drawing 
' to copy, in his second engraving ; and that our good Lady 

* Hesketh is so gracious as to send it ? ' 

The engravings to the Life of Cozvfier — the first issue in 
two volumes quarto (they were omitted in the subsequent 
octavo edition) — are not of that elaborate character the 
necessity of their being executed under the 'biographers 
own eye* might have led us to expect. One is after that 
portrait of Cowper, by Romney, in crayons, made during the 
poet's own visit to Eartham in 1792 ; which drew forth the 
graceful, half sad, half sportive sonnet, concluding with so 
skilful an antithesis of friendly hyperbole in complimenting 
his painter and host. A correct copy as to likeness^ the 



iCT. 44-46-] WORKING HOURS. 17 1 

engraving gives no hint of the refinement of Romney^s art. 
In so mannered, level a piece of workmanship, industry of 
hand is more visible than of mind. Another is after the 
stiff, Lely-like portrait of Cowper's mother, by D. Hcins, 
which suggested the poet's beautiful lines. In Vol. II. wc 
have a good rendering of young Lawrence's clever, charac- 
teristic sketch of Cowper ; and, at the end, a group of 
pretty, pastoral designs from Blake's own hand. The sub- 
jects are that|iamiliar household toy, 'the weather houv:,' 
described in The Task ; and Cowper's tame hares. I'h^t/i 
vignettes are executed in a light, delicate style, very unuftual 
with Blake. 

In January, 1802, Cowper's cousin paid the promi-.^rl vitiit, 
and brought with him the wished-for anecdotcH of th/: pfj#:t'si 
last days. Hayley, with friendly zeal, had ur^;erl WXaVf. 
to attempt the only lucrative walk of art in th^j^e dayo 
portraiture; and during Johnson's stay, the artist f.%tjM\fi\ 
a miniature of him, which Hayley mcntionin a^ partiV.uLirly 
successful It would be an interesting on/t \J9 n^^, i^tf it.i» 
painter's sake, and for the subject — the faithful Vxw^uuxw 
and attendant with whom The LetUrs of Cowjier hav*: put t»H 
friendly terms all lovers of that loveablc jx^et, the firi*:-will<<l, 
heaven-stricken man. 

rBefore the second winter was over, unmistakabi/: %\y'n'^ b^tfan 
to appear that neither the smiling cotta^/: nor tli/: fri< fi'lly 
Hayley were all they had at first seemed. Thr: iUu\\»utnt% u\ 
a house placed upon the earth without o:IUra(;':, nt\ a low 
shore too, between the Downs and the *iea, vrriou^jly aiiaXvA 
Blake's health for a time, and caused hi^ Kate severe a(.Mi<! 
and rheumatism, which lasted even after h#:r rrlurn to tlir 
dryness of London. 

And no less baneful to the inner life was fionstant inter- 
course with the well-meaning literary squire. It was not pos- 
sible for the ardent and exalted nature of lilake, to whom 
poetry and design were the highest expression of religion, to 
breathe freely in an atmosphere of elegant trivialities and 



172 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i8oi— 1803. 

shallow sentiment So early as January lOth, 1802, he writes 
to Mr. Butts :— 

Dear Sir, 

Your very kind and affectionate letter, and the many kind 
things you have said in it, called upon me for an immediate answer. 
But it found my wife and myself so ill, and my wife so very iH, that 
till now I have not been able to do this duty. The ague and rheuma- 
tism have been almost her constant enemies, which she has combated 
in vain almost ever since we have been here ; and her sickness is always 
my sorrow, of course. But what you tell me about your sight afflicted 
me not a little, and that about your health, in another part of your 
letter, makes me entreat you to take due care of both. It is a part of 
our duty to God and man to take due care of His gifts ; and though 
we ought not think more highly of ourselves, yet we ought to think 
as highly of ourselves as immortals ought to think. 

When I came down here, I was more sanguine than I am at 
present ; but it was because I was ignorant of many things which 
have since occurred, and 9hiefly the unhealthiness of the place. Yet 
I do not repent of coming on a thousand accounts ; and Mr. H., I 
doubt not, will do ultimately all that both he and I wish — that is, to 
lift me out of difficulty. But this is no easy matter to a man who, 
having spiritual enemies of such formida\>le magnitude^ carmot 
expect to want natural hidden ones. 

Your approbation of my pictures is a multitude to me, and I doubt 
not that all your kind wishes in my behalf shall in due time be ful- 
filled. Your kind offer of pecuniary assistance I can only thank 
you for at present, because I have enough to serve my present 
purpose here. Our expenses are small, and our income, from our 
incessant labour, fully adequate to these at present. I am now 
engaged in engraving six small plates for a new edition of Mr. 
Hayley's Triumphs of Temper^ from drawings by Maria Flaxman, 
sister to my friend the sculptor. And it seems that other things will 
follow in coiu^e, if I do but copy these well. But patience 1 If 
great things do not turn out, it is because such things depend on the 
spiritual and not on the natural world ; and if it was fit for me, I 
doubt not that I should be employed in greater things ; and when it 
is proper, my talents shall be properly exercised in public, as I hope 
they are now in private. For, till then, I leave no stone unturned, 
and no path unexplored that leads to improvement in my beloved 
arts. One thing of real consequence I have accomplished by coming 



J 

into the country, which is to .*ne ^ixsoijiioti ^^j'i:^, i^mczy. I 
hftYe re-coilected ail my scattered, 'hausziiz in jx, in'X ts^izik*: iiy 
primitive and original ways if :sef.uiiCin- a iortL lamii::-: ^ri :;n- 
grarin^ which in die coniiiaion n lunfion 1 'a^ii vir* nurji <jv~ 
and obliterated from mv mind. Bur ^niiic-,-^ j'trrim;::;. jt nv hjovjt.. 
I woald rather diat ±ev shouitt le -ircisir*-^^ ji -^i'lr irK:n:i(j:i£,*:: 
(no^as you mistakenly call ic iumpiiU. can n hL: .Ma pdltrr a 
The son may yet ihine;. lua ~ii£:n ncr/ vrll j<^ jroiunt ncc 



But yoa have so genernusiy ind inftniy i^fiircd .nax Z vril ii'rfie 
Biy griefi widi yoa that I cannot .luas vnar r ins i(iW :^.r.':me nv 
do^ to explain. Hy unhappmess i;i:: irxTtn 'mm i :otirr.!i T*iir::i. t 
ciploied too naziowly. might lurr ii'/ .-rr/iraar' ;:mmHtant:£h is 
my dependence is on sngnvmir *r "r-^.-tni. iini ::j:r:i:ui2r:y :n "Tit; 
CDgEsmgs I have in hand for \L:. ^. uid Z im: :n ul ivnniE irzzz 
objecdons to my <icini£ iny-iuni^ lui Mic mcri 'jrn'U'ir' :x :iii:inc*=. 
and TTiritnations thsu: if I ic lot T.-^minc iiy*=eif 'o win. i xnail 3i:c 
live. This has alwavs 'jiirsied .Tiit. V iu vil iniitr-Tonc: zv -^ziy. ne 
scarce of all my ijneasiness. Tiis :r';m 'inn^ion im: 7 ise:i iriuiihc 
me down here, and rhis Tom iTr. rL vil :rn:r ni: :a(;:< uia-n. J:r 
that I cannot live without di'jnii n*' :.ir/ :-: ji-r ic T-x:;:r:s n 
hesven is certain anii ■iefermne^L n^.ti ".t "iih I i^.'^^i j:r.:r ^liuic ::: 
my mind. And why "iiis ihrjiiii :e naiic i-i •:i:i»if:r:<:n :': :::'?. V-iLht 
dnmkenneas, lewdness, li-.inr-r^". iji: r-Tn rilirruiii .Lieif. :«: ::«:c 
bnrt other men. let Sasm hiraaeii i::r.ia.n. T'lit "x^n-z I -a"'- :t:«:sc 
at heart — more than Uic, r,T lil ±at «sn::i ::: asaici .ir'i •z'zniiiir'^'.z'.tt 
without — is the interest rit "rie r'tiiif-a i.i«: s^::!:!:":!:. A::«i vr'-'in-i'-tr 
anything appears ro ifer.r -nar :r.--:r:r:t rrinr^f-jJly j I ~ -ii;.:" ;ir_: 
any dixty to my itirion as i iCuLnr 'it ' J::-jr. . .!: .-:■ :s zin 'l:-i r*iJ.:;^c 
of torments. E am lUit a-ihani'tfi, i:ri.c. =:c i/-';r3e '.o :ill y-'c ^^'m: 
oaght to be told — thaz £ am :ii:«icr ±e ■iirf.:zLrr. of =:es:riir:j:'er> r'.'-c:: 
heaven, dailv ind ni^hriv, Eu: "Jie zj,T:rt zi rvi=:ii tr.-:^? is -'."c. is 
some suppose^ withoiit ixou!:!.; "-r :zri. TcE:rc:i:i':r.s ir;; jr. :h^ 
ri^t hand and on the Left. EehLiil. it-i 5ci 'if lin-.e ir.i 5*.\i:>' r-.^aj^ 
and follows swiftlT. He who 'L-ttrjt n';: r!z'i: ■r-^.vari'? ii Irs: . jl-^ S 
our footsteps slide in clay, ho-sr can we • :o : rhir* i<e :!: j^ iVjlt jl:*/. 
tremble? Bat I should noc h^ve rrji'i'.i': voi w::h :Ji:> jlccou/.: v\'" 
my spiritual state- unless i: hoii be^n ntce^ijjry in t\\^''-a::v.r.^ :hc 
actxial canse of my uneasintsc, into wh:c!i yo*^ -ir^ >v> kir-vl as :o 
inqaire: fisr I never obcr-'ie such things on othc::^ un.;:5S v;-;rs::on>.\L 
and then I never disguise :he :ni:h. But if we rVar :o do :r.o oiour.-s 
of our ariiireb, and :remtle i: the tasks set before *.:> ; if wo r^.u:>c :o 



174 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE, [l8oi— 1803. 

do spiritual acts because of natural fears or natural desires, who can 
describe the dismal torments of such a state ! — I too well remenh 
ber the threats I heard ! — ' If you, who are organized by Divine 
' Providence for spiritual communion, refuse, and bury your talent in 
' the earth, even though you should want natural bread, — sorrow and 
'desperation pursue you through life, and after death shame and 

* confusion of face to eternity. Every one in eternity will leave yon, 
' aghast at the man who was crowned with glory and honour by his 
' brethren, and betrayed their cause to their enemies. You will be 

* called the base Judas who betrayed his friend ! ' — Such words would 
make any stout man tremble, and how then could I be at ease ? Bat 
I am now no longer in that state, and now go on again with my task, 
fearless, though my path is difficult I have no fear of stumUing 
while I keep it 

My wife desires her kindest love to Mrs. Butts, and I have per- 
mitted her to send it to you also. We often wish that we could unite 
again in society, and hope that the time is not distant when we 
shall do so, being determined not to remain another winter here, but 
to return to London. 

I hear a Voice you cannot hear, that says I must not stay, 
I see a Hand you cannot see, that beckons me away. 

Naked we came here — naked of natural things — and naked we shall 

return: but while clothed with the Divine mercy, we are richly 

clothed in spiritual, and suffer all the rest gladly. Pray, give my 

love to Mrs. Butts and your family. 

I am yours sincerely, 

WiLUAM Blare. 

P.S. — ^Your obliging proposal of exhibiting my two pictures likewise 
calls for my thanks ; I will finish the others, and then we shall judge 
of the matter with certainty. 

Our next excerpts from Hayley's garrulous letters date 
after Johnson's visit to Felpham. 

February yd^ 1802. [Hayley to Johnson, as before.] ♦ ♦ ♦ 

* Here is instantaneously a title-page for thee ' (the new 
' edition of Cowper's Horner)^ * and a Greek motto, which I 

* and Blake, who is just become a Grecian, and literally learn- 

* ing the language, consider as a happy hit ! * * * The new 

* Grecian greets you aflfectionately.* 



BlciJie, v*h: biii l T«ir:rL icnr^de :"cr icqu-rn'^ '>::i.mv Uv^v. 
little culrixfcifi ii yzrjzi, -vls Lv-i--'? v-'I:.:;^ :j .i /■. "v >. '.-vn;,''' 
to the voCfcbi-'iLrr :r j. V, T'riiLp. :«:r ihe rur\v<>: o:' rs.\u ■.■:•;; 
a great oripnL 5_:z^;c. I-£j -viLiId d^fclar;: :h.i: ho !.m:i»: 
French. suEiZissr. r: rtihl .z. jr. i :t'v •Art^\<. x>y-a:\". In . m 
£xty ytLTh :»f iirt. !:i= -vll sec :: leam n^ I:.il:a:\ in v>uUi 
to read Dtrtt 

The refereace?. _r T'lr :!»2x: extran. to Co'A-pcr's monmurnl.il 
tablet £.1 EfiiC I»£ri^"Z- ii^n ur.isr i:<ci:ssio!i. atul lUakr a 
part}- to :i. LTt <:i=r:;z:Iv iziusir.^. <urcly, to waii.mt »mii 
staying to sziLt iver tie fine. Cor.sioor what ' ihi* D* -.ii-ii ' 
actualh" erezisi if. .-^ :b'.:«^ piece of maiMi*. I>*miiiij; .m 
iascriplic'ii. "srii a fculcr-rei * Holy l^blc * on t-iwl al inp , 
another mirble ri'/jsit. lettered 'The Task,' Icaniiii: ♦i|;iiNi-.i 
it : and a pain leaf izclir.ed over the whole, as ihi* n ili • niiui' 
line of beautj*. Chaste and simple ! 

Fehniafj' Z^Th, iScJ. 'I thank you heart il)' fni yum pi. ,i imI 
'letter, and I an going to atTord you, 1 liopi-, viij' lu; i. 
'gratification in the prospect of our ovru (huiii:/ .ill ili* 
'prejudices of our good Lady Heskrlli ai'.iin-.i iimjil- ..n.i 
'graceful ornaments for the tomb of oui hi !•/'/.. 1 l.n.l I 
'entreated her to suspend her dccisi»;ii till I li.i'l imi* i" . lii 
' for the simply elegant sketches that I (X|i««i«.l li-nn M. 
*man. When these sketches readied im, I w.i n'/i n. • :» 

' perfectly pleased with the sliajx; of tin !)»« ujIj.-.i i i 

* the sculptor, and presumptuously ha v« iii«i) n,^. . :i i. ■ i 

'Jdesign my dear Flaxman himself, on liu n.-^ i ij. .i. • . 
'occasion. I formed, therefore, a d' vj" *A i/n luih ufi. /,, 
'supporting The Task, with a kuji' 1 h .if .ii.-i J'.i/n, ■ .- ■ 
' I send you, neatly copied by our Mu'l JiJ.u « \ \ ■ •.! 

'other copies of the same to li«i 1.1'ly: Jij/ .i- •! i-i I j •.. •- 
'requesting the latter to tell iii* Ii.uj: 1/ ).-... li- ii • " , 
'design, and for what sum li*: r.iu 1.-...11. im .1.1 .1. 1.1. 
' with the background, — a firui ^l.lly 'yl ':'//• <'.1'/iim-1 11....1.1., 
'and the rest white. If li* r J.i'i/iJi j/ ..?•; J ..r.-m. n ..i« .. 
'much pleased with my id<.a a^ iIm ;:''''•! i/'-'i" -"-'i I'.'nI j.: 



176 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1801—1803. 

' of Lavant are, all our difficulties on this grand monumental 

* contention will end most happily. Tell me how you^ my 
' dear Johnny, like my device. To enable you to judge fairly, 
' even against myself, I desired the kind Blake to add for you, 

* under the copy of my design, a copy of Flaxman's also, with 

* the lyre whose shape displeases me.* 

In the sequel the Lyre was eliminated, and the amateur's 
emendation, in the main, adhered to; The Task^ however, 
being made to prop the Bible, instead of vke versd as, at first, 
the Hermit heedlessly suggests. 

March nth, 1802. ♦ ♦ ♦ *The kind, indefatigaBle Blake 
'salutes you cordially, and begs a little fresh news from the 

* spiritual world ' ; an allusion to some feeble joke of Hayle/s 
on Johnson's timorous awe of the public, which the latter 
makes believe to think has slain the bashful parson. 

The Life of Cowper, — commenced January, 1801, finished 
the following January, — was, this March,- in the hand of 
Seagrave, whom the author had, * for the credit of his native 
city,' induced reluctant Johnson to accept as printer. The 
four copper-plates were entirely printed off by Blake and 
his wife at his own press, a very good one for that day, 
having cost 40/. when new — a heavy sum for him. From 
March to December, Hayley, after beginning the Memoir of 
his son, was busy getting his two quartos through the press. 

The issue of The Ballads was not commenced till June; 
they were in quarto numbers, three engravings to each — a 
frontispiece and two vignettes. The first was The Elephant, 
A Series of Ballads, Number I. The Elephant Ballad the 
First, Chichester : printed by f, Seagrave, and sold by him and 
P, Humphry ; and by R, H, Evans, Pall Mall, London, for 
W, Blake, Felpham, 1802. 

In May we hear, through Hayley, of illness : — 

May i6th, 1802. ♦ * * * You will feel anxious when I tell 

* you that both my good Blakes have been confined to their 

* bed a week by a severe fever. Thank heaven ! they are both 

* revived, and he is at this moment by my side, representing, 



i«T. 44—46.] WORKING HOURS. 1/7 

' on copper, an Adam, of his own, surrounded by animals, as 
a finontisiMeoe to the projected ballads ' : a frontispiece which 
appeared in the first number. 

In June, healthfully restored, *■ our alert Blake,' scribbles 
Hayley, one * Monday afternoon,' June 2StA, 1802, * is pre- 

* paring, con spirito^ to launch his EagU, with a lively hope 
' of seeing him superior to T/u Ekp/iant, and 

'Sailing with supreme dominion 
Through the azure deep of air. 

* Lady Hesketh has received and patronised his Elephant 

* with the most obliging benig^it>% and we hope soon to hear 
' that the gentle and noble beast arrived safe at Dereham, 
' and finds favour with the good folks of >'our count>'. 
'The ingenious maker of elephants and eagles, who is 

* working at this instant on the latter, salutes you with kindest 

* remembrance.* 

A few days later, July ist, 1802, TJie Eagle was published, 
forming No. II. of The Ballads, The frontispiece is one of 
the finest designs in the series. The frantic mother, kneeling 
on the topmost verge of the over-hanging crag amid the 
clouds, who stretches fourth passionate, outspread arms over 
her smiling babe below, as he lies and sports with his dread 
comrade in this perilous nest, — the blood-stained cranny in 
the rocks, — is a noble and eloquent figure. It was sub- 
sequently reproduced in the duodecimo edition, but without 
either of the vignettes. In one of these, the eagle is swoop- 
ing down on the child in its cradle outside the mother's 
cottage. In the other, the liberated little one is stand- 
ing upon the dead eagle among the mountains. Both 
have a domestic simplicity of sentiment, and both are good 
in drawing. 

Between September, 1802, and January, 1804, occurs an 
unlucky hiatus in the printed letters of Hayley to Johnson ; 
and we catch no further glimpses of the artist by that 
flickering rushlight. 

VOL. ;. N 



178 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1801— 1803. 

The third number of The Ballads, — The Lion^ — ^appeared 
in 1802 : after which they were discontinued ; the encourage- 
ment being too slender to pay for mere printing in so expen- 
sive a form. Though Phillips' name was added on the 
title-page, and copies perhaps consigned to him, the book 
can hardly be said to have been published, as matters were 
managed down at Felpham and Chichester. Had it been 
efficently made known, the illustrations ought to have com- 
manded some favour with the public. The style of design 
and engraving, careful and finished, is, for once, not of a kind 
to repel the ordinary gazer ; and the themes are quite within 
popular comprehension, though their treatment be unusually 
refined. I here speak of the quarto edition.^ The whole 
fifteen windy ballads were, three years later, printed in 
duodecimo by Seagrave, for Phillips of London, the aim still 

being to benefit the artist, and still proving ineffectual. LOf 

— I 

this edition more hereafter. 

November 15th, 1802, died Hayley's old friend Romney, 
after a sad and lengthened twilight of his faculties ; which 
solemn event set Hayley * composing an epitaph before the 
* dawn of day,* and revolving in his mind pious intent of 
further biographic toil, in which Blake was to help. This 
autumn, too, died Blake's old master, Basire. 

Here again, happily, two more of the precious budget of 
letters to Mr. Butts bring us face to face with the real Blake 
instead of Blake as seen through the blinking mental vision of 
the amiable Hermit. 

Felpham, Nov, 22, 1802. 
Dkar Sir, 

My brother tells me that he fears you are offended with 
me. I fear so too, because there appears some reason why you 
might be so. But when you have heard me out, you will not 
be so. 

I have now given two years to the intense study of those parts of 
the art which relate to light and shade and colour, and am convinced 
that either my understanding is incapable of comprehending the 
beauties of colouring, or the pictures which I painted for you are 



.«T. 44-^] LETTERS TO BUTTS. 1 79 

equal in every part of the art, and superior in one, to anything that 
has been done since the age of Raphael All Sir J. Reynolds' 
jDisamrses to the Royal Academy will show that the Venetian finesse 
in art can never be united with the majesty of colouring necessary to 
historical beauty ; and in a letter to the Rev. Mr. Gilpin, author of 
a work on Picturesque Scenery, he says thus : — * It may be worth 

* consideration whether the epithet picturesque is not applicable to 
' the excellencies of the inferior schools rather than to the higher. 
' The works of Michael Angelo, Raphael, &:c. appear to me to have 

* nothing of it. Whereas Rubens and the Venetian painters may 

* ahnost be said to have nothing else. Perhaps picturesque is some- 
' what synonymous to the word tastey which we should think improperly 

* applied to Homer or Milton, but very well to Prior or Pope. I suspect 

* that the application of these words is to excellences of an inferior 
' order, and which are incompatible with the grand style. You are cer- 

* tainly right in saying that variety of tints and forms is picturesque \ 
' but it must be remembered, on the other hand, that the reverse of 

* this (uniformity of colour and a long continuation of lines) produces 
' grandeur.' So says Sir Joshua, and so say I ; for I have now proved 
that the parts of the art which I neglected to display, in those little 
pictures and drawings which I had the pleasure and profit to do for you, 
are incompatible with the designs. There is nothing in the art which 
our painters do that I can confess myself ignorant of I also know and 
understand, and can assuredly afRrm, that the works I have done for 
you are equal to the Caracci or Raphael (and I am now some years 
older than Raphael was when he died). I say they are equal to 
Cazacci or Raphael, or else I am blind, stupid, ignorant, and in- 
capable, in two years' study, to understand those things which a 
boarding-school miss can comprehend in a fortnight. Be assured, 
my dear friend, that there is not one touch in those drawings and 
pictures but what came from my head and my heart in unison ; that 
I am proud of being their author, and grateful to you my employer ; 
and that I look upon you as the chief of my friends whom I would 
endeavour to please, because you, among all men, have enabled me 
to produce these things. I would not send you a drawing or a 
picture till I had again reconsidered my notions of art, and had put 
myself back as if I was a learner. I have proved that I am right 
and shall now go on with the vigour I was, in my childhood, famous 
for. But I do not pretend to be perfect ; yet, if my works have 
faults, Caracci's, Correggio's, and Raphael's have faults also. Let me 
observe tliat the yellow-leather flesh of old men, the ill-drawn and 

N 2 



l8o LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1801— 1803. 

Ugly young women, and above all, the daubed black and yellow 
shadows that are found in most fine, ay, and the finest pictures, I 
altogether reject as ruinous to effect, though connoisseurs may think 
otherwise. 

Let me also notice that Caracci's pictures are not like Correggio's, 
nor Correggio's like Raphael's ; and, if neither of them was to be 
encouraged till he did like any of the others, he must die without 
encouragement My pictures are unlike any of these painters, and I 
would have them to be so. I think the manner I adopt more perfect 
than any other. No doubt they thought the same of theirs. You 
will be tempted to think that, as I improve, the pictures, &c that I 
did for you are not what I would now wish them to be. On this I 
beg to saytthat they are what I intended them, and that I know 
I never shall do better ; for, if I were to do them over again, they 
would lose as much as they gained, because they were done in the 
heat of my spirit 

But you will justly inquire why I have not written all this time to 
you. I answer I have been very unhappy, and could not think of 
troubling you about it, or any of my real friends (I have written many 
letters to you which I burned and did not send). And why I have 
not before now finished the miniature I pronused to Mrs. Butts ? I 
answer I have not, till now, in any degree pleased myself, and now I 
must entreat you to excuse faults, for portrait-painting is the direct 
contrary to designing and historical painting, in every respect. If you 
have not nature before you for every touch, you cannot paint portrait ; 
and if you have nature before you at all, you cannot paint history. 
It was Michael Angelo's opinion and is mine. Pray give my wife's 
love with mine to Mrs. Butts. Assure her that it cannot be long 
before I have the pleasure of painting from you in person, and then 
that she may expect a likeness. But now I have done all I could, 
and know she will forgive any failure in consideration of the endeavour. 
And now let me finish with assuring you that, though I have been 
very unhappy, I am so no longer. I am again emerged into the 
light of day ; I still and shall to eternity embrace Christianity, and 
adore Him who is the express image of God ; but I have travelled 
through perils and darkness not unlike a champion. I have conquered 
and shall go on conquering. Nothing can withstand the fury of my 
course among the stars of God and in the abysses of the accuser. 
My enthusiasm is still what it was, only enlarged and confirmed. 

I now send two pictures, and hope you will approve of them. I 
have inclosed the account of money received and work done, which 



MT. 44—46.] LETTERS TO BUTTS. 181 

I ought long ago to have sent you. Pray forgive errors in omission 
of this kind. I am incapable of many attentions which it is my duty 
to observe towards you, through multitude of employment, and 
through hope of soon seeing you again. I often omit to inquire of 
you, but pray let me now hear how you do, and of the welfare of 
your family. 

Accept my sincere love and respect. 

I remain yours sincerely, 

William Blake. 

A piece of seaweed serves for barometer, and gets wet and dry 
as the weather gets so. 

Dear Sir, 

After I had finished my letter, I found that I had not said 
half what I intended to say, and in particular I wish to ask you 
what subject you choose to be painted on the remaining canvas 
which I brought down with me (for there were three), and to tell you 
that several of the drawings were in great forwardness. You will see 
by the inclosed account that the remaining number of drawings which 
you gave me orders for is eighteen. I will finish these with all possible 
expedition, if indeed I have not tired you, or, as it is politely called, 
^r<a/ you too much already ; or, if you would rather cry out. Enough, 
off, off! Tell me in a letter of forgiveness if you were offended, and 
of accustomed friendship if you were not. But I will bore you more 
with some verses which my wife desires me to copy out and send you 
with her kind love and respect. They were composed above a 
twelvemonth ago, while walking from Felpham to Lavant, to meet 
my sister : — 

With happiness stretched across the hills, 

In a cloud that dewy sweetness distils, 

With a blue sky spread over with wings, 

And a mild son that mounts and sings ; 

With trees and fields, full of fairy elves, 

And little devils who fight for themselves. 

Remembering the verses that Hayley sung 

When my heart knock'd against the root of my tongue, 

With angels planted in hawthorn bowers, 

And God Himself in the passing hours ; 

With silver angels across my way. 

And golden demons that none can stay ; 

With my father hovering upon the wind. 

And my brother Robert just behind. 

And my brother John, the evil one. 



1 82 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1801-1803. 

In a black cloud making his moan; 

Though dead, they appear upon my path. 

Notwithstanding my terrible wrath : 

They beg, they entr^t, they drop their tears, 

Filled full of hopes, fill'd full of fears ; 

With a thousand angels upon the wind, 

Pouring disconsolate from behind 

To drive them off, and before my way . 

A frowning Thistle implores my stay. 

What to others a trifle appears 

Fills me full of smiles or tears ; 

For double the vision my eyes do see, 

And a double vision is always with me. 

With my inward eye, 'tis an old man grey ; 

With my outward, a thistle across my way. 

' If thou goest back,' the Thistle said, 

* Thou art to endless woe betra/d ; 

* For here does Theotormon lower, 
'And here is Enitharmon's bower, 
'And Los the Terrible thus hath sworn, 
'Because thou backward dost return, 
'Poverty, envy, old age, and fear, 
'Shall bring thy wife upon a bier. 
'And Butts shall give what Fuseli gave, 
'A dark black rock, and a gloomy cave/ 
I struck the thistle with my foot, 

And broke him up from his delving root; 
' Must the duties of life each other cross ? 
' Must every joy be dung and dross ? 
'Must my dear Butts feel cold neglect 

* Because I give Hayley his due respect ? 
'Must Flaxman look upon me as wild, 

* And all my friends be with doubts beguil'd ? 
'Must my wife live in my sister's bane, 

'Or my sister survive on my Love's pain? 

* The curses of Los, the terrible shade, 
'And his dismal terrors make me afraid.' 

So I spoke, and struck in my wrath 

The old man weltering upon my path. 

Then Los appeared in all his power : 

In the sun he appeared,, descending before 

My face in fierce flames ; in my double sight, 

'Twas outward a sun, — inward, Los in his might. 

' My hands are labour'd day and night, 

'And ease comes never in my sight. 

* My wife has no indulgence given, 

* Except what comes to her from heaven. 



Ml. 44-46] LETTERS TO BUTTS. 1 83 

' We eat little, we drink less ; 
' This earth breeds not our happiness. 
' Another sun feeds our life's streams ; 
'We are not wannM with thy beams. 
' Thoa measurest not the time to me, 
' Nor yet the space that I do see : 
* My mind is not with thy light arra>''d ; 
'Thy terrors shall not make me afraid.' 

When 1 had my defiance given^ 
The son stood trembling in heaven; 
The moon, that glow'd remote bdow. 
Became leprous and white as snow; 
And every soul of man on the earth 
Fek affliction, and sorrow^ and sickness, and dearth. 
Los flamM in my path, and the sun was hot 
With the bows of my mind and the arrows of thought : 
My bowstring fierce with ardour breathes. 
My arrows glow in their golden sheares ; 
My brother and £ither march before, 
The heavens drop with human gore. 

Now I a iouriold vi»ir«n see 
And a fourfold vision is given to me ; 
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight. 
And threefold in soft Beulah's night. 
And twofold always. May God us keep 
From single vision, and Newton* s sleep ! 

I also enclose yon some ballads by Mr. Hayley, with prists to 
them by your hmnble servanL I should have sent them bef<^e now, 
but could not get anything dooe for you to please myself; for I do 
assure you that I have truly studied the two little pictures I now 
send, and do not repent of the time I have sptnt upon them. 

God bless you ! Yours, W. B. 

Next year, in an extract from Hayley s Diary, wc again get 
sight of Blake for a moment : — 26/// and Tfjth of March, 1803 
— ' Read the death of Klopstock in the newspaper of the day, 
'and looked into his Messiah^ br/th the original and the 
'translation. Read Klopstock into Engli>.h to B!ak^, and 
* translated the opening of his diird canto, where he speaks of 
' his own deadL* Hayley was at this tirne trying to kam 
German, ' finding that it contained a poem 00 the Four Ag^r^, 
' of Woman,' of which be, ' ior some time, rnade it a ruU: to 



/ 

184 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [l«oi— 1803. 

' translate a few lines ' daily ; finding also, by the arrival of 
presentation copies in the alien tongue, that three of his own 
works had been translated into German : the J^^sh on Old 
Maids, the Life of Milton , and the Triumphs of Temper. 
Time ! eater of man and books, what has become of these 
translations ? 

The next two letters to Mr. Butts show Blake's determination 
of returning to London to have been already taken. In his 
art, in truth, Blake would not barter independence, or the 
exercise of his imaginative faculty for patronage or money. 
This residence at Felpham, under poet Hayley's protection, 
might have proved a turning-point in his life. Had he 
complied with Hayley's evident wishes, and set himself, as 
a miniature painter, to please patrons, he might have climbed 
to fortune and fame. It was a * choice of Hercules ' for him 
once again. But he had made his choice in boyhood, and 
adhered to it in age. Few are so perseveringly brave. Many 
who, in early life, elect as he had done, falter and waver in 
after years : perchance too late to win that worldly success 
for which they have learned to hanker. He saw there was 
presented to him this choice of paths and that longer stay 
was perilous to the imaginative faculty he prized above all 
earthly good. He feared being tempted to sell his birthright 
for a mess of pottage ; feared to become a trader in art ; and 
that the Visions would forsake him. He even began to think 
they were forsaking him. * The Visions were angry with me 
' at Felpham,* he would afterwards say. 

April ^^^ 1803. 
My dear Sir, 

I write in haste, having received a pressing letter from my 
Brother. I intended to have sent the Picture of the Riposo^ which 
is nearly finished much to my satisfaction, but not quite. You 
shall have it soon. I now send the four numbers for Mr. Birch with 
best respects to him. The reason the Ballads have been suspended 
is the pressure of other business, but they will go on again soon. 

Accept of my thanks for your kind and heartening letter. You 
have faith in the endeavours of me, your weak brother and fellow- 



^T. 44— 46J LETTERS TO BUTTS. 185 

disciple ; how great must be your faith in our Divine Master ! You 
are to me a lesson of humility, while you exalt me by such dis- 
tinguishing commendations. I know that you see certain merits in 
me, which, by God's grace, shall be made fully apparent and perfect 
in Eternity. In the meantime I must not bury the talents in the 
earth, but do my endeavour to live to the glory of our Lord and 
Saviour ; and I am also grateful to the kind hand that endeavours to 
lift me out of despondency, even if it lifts me too high. 

And now, my dear Sir, congratulate me on my return to London 
with the full approbation of Mr. Hayley and with promise. But 
alas ! now I may say to you — what perhaps I should not dare to say 
to any one else — that I can alone carry on my visionary studies in 
London unannoyed, and that 1 may converse with my friends in 
Eternity, see visions, dream dreams, and prophecy and speak para- 
bles, unobserved, and at liberty from the doubts of other mortals : 
perhaps doubts proceeding from kindness ; but doubts are always 
pernicious, especially when we doubt our friends. Christ is very 
decided on this point : ' He who is not with me is against me.' 
There is no medium or middle state ; and if a man is the enemy of 
my spiritual life while he pretends to be the friend of my corporeal, 
he is a real enemy ; but the man may be the friend of my spiritual 
life while he seems the enemy of my corporeal, though not via versA, 

What b very pleasant, every one who hears of my going to I-^ndon 
again applauds it as the only course for the interest of all concerned 
in my works; observing that I ought not to be away from the 
opportunities London affords of seeing fine pictures, and the various 
improvements in works of art going on in London. 

But none can know the spiritual acts of my three years' slumber 
on the banks of Ocean, unless he has seen them in the spirit, or 
unless he should read my long Poem * descriptive of those acts ; for 
I have in these years composed an immense number of verses on one 
grand theme, similar to Homer's Iliad or Milton's Paradise Lost; 
the persons and machinery entirely new to the inhabitants of earth 
(some of the persons excepted). I have written this Poem from 
immediate dictation, twelve or sometimes twenty or thirty lines at a 
time, without premeditation, and even against my will. The time it 
has taken in writing was thus rendered non-existent, and an immense 
Poem exists which seems to be the labour of a long life, all produced 
without labour or study. I mention this to show you what I think 
the grand reason of my being brought down here. 

The Jerusalem.) 



1 86 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1801— 1803. 

I have a thousand and ten thousand things to say to you. My 
heart is full of futurity. I perceive that the sore travail which has 
been given me these three years leads to glory and honour. 1 
rejoice and tremble : ' I am fearfully and wonderfully made.' I had 
been reading the CXXXIX. Psalm a little before your letter arrived 
I take your advice. I see the face of my Heavenly Father: He 
lays His hand upon my head, and gives a blessing to all my work. 
Why should I be troubled? Why should my heart and flesh cry out? 
I will go on in the strength of the Lord ; through Hell will I sing 
forth His praises : that the dragons of the deep may praise Him, and 
that those who dwell in darkness, and in the sea coasts may be 
gathered into His kingdom. Excuse my, perhaps, too great en- 
thusiasm. Please to accept of and give our loves to Mrs. Butts and 
your amiable family, and believe me 

Ever yours affectionately, 

William Blake. 

Felpham, July 6, 1803. 
Dear Sir, 

I send you the Riposo^ which I hope you will think my 
best picture, in many respects. It represents the Holy Family in 
Egypt, guarded in their repose from those fiends, the Egyptian gods. 
And though not directly taken from a Poem of Milton's (for till I 
had designed it Milton's Poem did not come into my thoughts), yet it 
is very similar to his Hymn on the Nativity^ which you will find 
among his smaller Poems, and will read with great delight. I have 
given, in the background, a building, which may be supposed the ruin 
of a part of Nimrod's Tower, which I conjecture to have spread over 
many countries ; for he ought to be reckoned of the Giant brood. 

I have now on the stocks the following drawings for you : — i. 
yephthah sacrificing his Daughter ; 2. Ruth and her Mother-in-law 
and Sister ; 3. The Three Maries at the Sepulchre ; 4. The Death of 
Joseph ; 5. Tlie Death of the Virgin Mary; 6. St, Paul Preaching ; 
and 7. Tlie Art gel of tlu Divine Presence clothing Adam and Eve 
with Coats of Skin. 

These are all in great forwardness, and I am satisfied that I improve 
very much, and shall continue to do so while I live, which is a 
blessing I can never be too thankful for both to God and man. 

We look forward every day with pleasure toward our meeting again 
in London with those whom we have learned to value by absence no 
less perhaps than we did by presence ; for recollection often surpasses 



iET. 44—46] LETTERS TO BUTTS. 1 87 

everything. Indeed, the prospect of returning to our friends is 
supremely delightful. Then, I am determined that Mrs. Butts shall 
have a good likeness of you, if I have hands and eyes left ; for I am 
become a likeness-taker, and succeed admirably well. But this is 
not to be achieved without the original sitting before you for every 
touch, all likenesses from memory being necessarily very, very 
defective ; but Nature and Fancy are two things, and can never be 
joined, neither ought any one to attempt it, for it is idolatry, and 
destroys the Soul. 

I ought to tell you that Mr. H. is quite agreeable to our return, 
and that there is all the appearance in the world of our being fully 
employed in engraving for his projected works, particularly Cowper's 
Milton — a work now on foot by subscription, and I understand that 
the subscription goes on briskly. This work is to be a very elegant 
one^ and to consist of all Milton's Poems with Cowper's Notes, and 
translations by Cowper from Milton's Latin and Italian Poems. 
These works will be ornamented with engravings from designs by 
Romney, Flaxman, and your humble servant, and to be engraved 
also by the last-mentioned. The profits of the work are intended to 
be appropriated to erect a monument to the memory of Cowper in 
St Paul's or Westminster Abbey. Such is the project; and Mr. 
Addington and Mr. Pitt are both among the subscribers, which are 
already numerous and of the first rank. The price of the work is six 
guineas. Thus I hope that all our three years' trouble ends in good- 
luck at last, and shall be forgot by my affections, and only remem- 
bered by my understanding, to be a memento in time to come, and 
to speak to future generations by a sublime allegory, which is now 
perfectly completed into a grand Poem. I may praise it, since I dare 
not pretend to be any other than the secretary ; the authors are in 
Eternity. I consider it as the grandest Poem that this world contains. 
Allegory addressed to the intellectual powers, while it is altogether 
hidden from the corporeal understanding, is my definition of the most 
sublime Poetry. It is also somewhat in the same manner defined by 
Plato. This Poem shall, by Divine assistance, be progressively 
printed and ornamented with prints, and given to the Public. But 
of this work I take care to say little to Mr. H., since he is as much 
averse to my Poetry as he is to a chapter in the Bible. He knows 
that I have writ it, for I have shown it to him, and he has read part 
by his own desire, and has looked with sufficient contempt to enhance 
my opinion of it. But I do not wish to imitate by seeming too 
obstinate in poetic pursuits. But if all the world should set their 



1 88 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i8oi— 1803. 

faces against this, I have orders to set my face like a flint (Ezekiel 
iii. 8) against their faces, and my forehead against their foreheads. 

As to Mr. H., I feel myself at liberty to say as follows upon this 
ticklish subject. I regard fashion in Poetry as little as I do in 
Painting : so, if both Poets and Painters should alternately dislike 
(but I know the majority of them will not), I am not to regard it at 
all. But Mr. H. approves of my Designs as little as he does of my 
Poems, and I have been forced to insist on his leaving me, in both, 
to my own self-will ; for I am determined to be no longer pestered 
with his genteel ignorance and polite disapprobation. I know myself 
both Poet and Painter, and it is not his affected contempt that can 
move to an3rthing but a more assiduous pursuit of both arts. Indeed, 
by my late firmness, I have brought down his affected loftiness, and 
he begins to think I have some genius : as if genius and assurance 
were the same thing ! But his imbecile attempts to depress me only 
deserve laughter. I say thus much to you, knowing that 3rou will 
not make a bad use of it. But it is a fact too true that, if I had only 
depended on mortal things, both myself and my wife must have been 
lost. I shall leave every one in this country astonished at my patience 
and forbearance of injuries upon injuries ; and I do assure you that, 
if I could have returned to London a month after my arrival here, I 
should have done so. But I was commanded by my spiritual friends 
to bear all and be silent, and to go through all without murmuring, 
and, in fine, [to] hope till my three years should be almost accom- 
plished ; at which time I was set at liberty to remonstrate against former 
conduct, and to demand justice and truth ; which I have done in so 
effectual a manner that my antagonist is silenced completely, and I 
have compelled what should have been of freedom — my just right 
as an artist and as a man. And if any attempt should be made 
to refuse me this, I am inflexible, and will relinquish any engagement 
of designing at all, unless altogether left to my own judgment, as 
you, my dear friend, have always left me; for which I shall never 
cease to honour and respect you. 

When we meet, I will perfectly describe to you my conduct and 
the conduct of others towards me, and you will see that I have 
laboured hard indeed, and have been borne on angels* wings. Till 
we meet I beg of God our Saviour to be with you and me, and yours 
and mine. Pray give my and my wife's love to Mrs. Butts and 
family, and believe me to remain 

Yours in truth and sincerity, 

William Blake. 



ET. 44—46.1 WORKING HOURS. 1 89 

At the latter end of 1803, Hayley, prompted by the un- 
expected success of Cowper's Life, began preparing a third 
irolume of Additional Letters, with * desultory ' remarks of his 
3wn on letter-writing. The volume was finished and published 
by the spring of 1804, Blake executing for it two tame 
eng^vings of tame subjects. One is from a drawing by a 
Francis Stone, of the chancel of East Dereham Church, — 
Cowper's burial-place; the other an etching of the mural 
tablet in the same chancel, as designed by Flaxman and 
Hayley. 

Among other joumeywork at this date, I may mention 
eng^vings finished May 1803, after six original designs by 
Maria Flaxman (the sculptor's sister), to the Triumphs of 
Temper, — the thirteenth edition, not published until 1807. 
These amateur designs, aiming at an idealized domesticity, 
are expressive and beautiful in the Flaxman-Stothard manner ; 
abound in grace of line, elegance of composition, and other 
artist-like virtues of a now obsolete sort. The engravings 
are interesting to admirers of Blake, though monotonous and 
devoid of ordinary charms, smoothness and finish. 

Uncommissioned work was also, as we have seen, in 
course of production now. I mean the illustrated 'pro- 
phecies' in the old class which will next year issue from 
Blake's private press : Jerusalem, T/ie Evtanatiofi of the Giant 
Albion, very grandly designed, if very mistily written ; also 
Mi/ton, a Poem in two Books, Of these, more hereafter. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

TRIAL FOR SEDITION. 1803— 1804. [/ET. 46—47.] 

High visions and patient industry, friendly intercourse with 
his neighbours, and happy enjoyment of nature were all inter- 
rupted for Blake during the short remainder of his stay at 
Felpham, by the incongruous event in a peaceful and innocent 
life. narrated in the next letter to Mr. Butts, — the last of the 

series : — 

Felpham, August 16, 1803. 
Dear Sir, 

I send seven Drawings, which I hope will please you. This, 

I believe, about balances our account. Our return to London draws 

on apace. Our expectation of meeting again with you is one of our 

greatest pleasures. Pray tell me how your eyes do. I never sit 

down to work but I think of you, and feel anxious for the sight of 

that friend whose eyes have done me so much good. I omitted, very 

unaccountably, to copy out in my last letter that passage in my rough 

sketch, which related to your kindness in offering to exhibit my two 

last pictures in the Gallery in Berners-street. It was in these words : 

* I sincerely thank you for your kind offer of exhibiting my two 

* pictures. The trouble you take on my account, I tnist, will be 

* recompensed to you by Him who seeth in secret If you should 

* find it convenient to do so, it will be gratefully remembered by me 

* among the other numerous kindnesses I have received from you.' 

I go on with the remaining subjects which you gave me commission 
to execute for you ; but I shall not be able to send any more before 
my return, though, perhaps, I may bring some with me finished. I 
am, at present, in a bustle to defend myself against a very unwarrant- 
able warrant from a justice of peace in Chichester, which was 



.ET. 46—47] LETTERS TO BUTTS. I9I 

taken out against me by a private in Captain Leathes' troop of ist 
or Royal Dragoons, for an assault and seditious words. The 
wretched man has terribly perjured himself, as has his comrade ; 
for, as to sedition, not one word relating to the King or Government 
was spoken by either him or me. His enmity arises from my having 
turned him out of my garden, into which he was invited as an 
assistant by a gardener at work therein, without my knowledge that 
he was so invited. I desired him, as politely as possible, to go out 
of the garden ; he made me an impertinent answer. I insisted on his 
leaving the garden ; he refused. I still persisted in desiring his depar- 
ture. He then threatened to knock out my eyes, with many abominable 
imprecations, and with some contempt for my person ; it affronted 
my foolish pride. I therefore took him by the elbows, and pushed 
him before me till I had got him out There I intended to have 
left him ; but he, turning about, put himself into a posture of defiance, 
threatening and swearing at me. I, perhaps foolishly and perhaps 
not, stepped out at the gate, and, putting aside his blows, took him 
again by the elbows, and, keeping his back to me, pushed him 
forward down the road about fifly yards — he all the while endeavour- 
ing to turn round and strike me, and raging and cursing, which drew 
out several neighbours. At length, when I had got him to where he 
was quartered, which was very quickly done, we were met at the gate 
by the master of the house — the Fox Inn — (who is the proprietor of 
my cottage) and his wife and daughter, and the man's comrade, and 
several other, people. My landlord compelled the soldiers to go 
indoors, after many abusive threats against me and my wife from the 
two soldiers ; but not one word of threat on account of sedition was 
uttered at that time. This method of revenge was planned between 
them after they had got together into the stable. This is the whole 
outline. I have for witnesses : — the gardener, who is ostler at the 
Fox, and who evidences that, to his knowledge, no word of the 
remotest tendency to Government or sedition was uttered ; our next- 
door neighbour, a miller's wife (who saw me turn him before me 
down the road, and saw and heard all that happened at the gate of 
the inn), who evidences that no expression of threatening on account 
of sedition was' uttered in the heat of their fury by either of the 
dragoons. This was the woman's own remark, and does high honour 
to her good sense, as she observes that, whenever a quarrel happens, 
the offence is always repeated. The landlord of the inn and his wife 
and daughter will evidence the same, and will evidently prove the 
comrade perjured, who swore that he heard me, while at the gate, 



192 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1803-1804. 

Utter seditious words, and d the K , without which perjury 

I could not have been committed ; and I had no witnesses with me 
before the justices who could combat his assertion, as the gardener 
remained in my garden all the while, and he was the only person I 
thought necessary to take with me. I have been before a bench of 
justices at Chichester this morning; but they, as the lawyer who 
wrote down the accusation told me in private, are compelled by the 
military to suffer a prosecution to be entered into, although they 
must know, and it is manifest, that the whole is a fabricated perjury. 
I have been forced to find bail. Mr. Hayley was kind enough to 
come forward, and Mr. Seagrave, printer at Chichester ; Mr. H. in 
;^ioo, and Mr. S. in ^^50, and myself am bound in ;^ioo for my 
appearance at the quarter-sessions, which is after Michaelmas. So I 
shall have the satisfaction to see my friends in town before this 
contemptible business comes on. I say contemptible, for it must 
be manifest to every one that the whole accusation is a wilful 
perjury. Thus you see, my dear friend, that I cannot leave this 
place without some adventure. It has struck a consternation through 
all the villages round. Every man is now afraid of speaking to, or 
looking at, a soldier : for the peaceable villagers have always been 
forward in expressing their kindness for us, and they express their 
sorrow at our departure as soon as they hear of it. Every one here 
is my evidence for peace and good neighbourhood ; and yet, such is 
the present state of things, this foolish accusation must be tried in 
public. Well, I am content, I murmur not, and doubt not that I 
r shall receive justice, and am only sorry for the trouble and expense. 

I have heard that my accuser is a disgraced sergeant : his name is 
John Scholfield. Perhaps it will be in your power to learn somewhat 
about the man. I am very ignorant of what I am requesting of you; 
I only suggest what I know you will be kind enough to excuse if 
you can learn nothing about him, and what, I as well know, if it is 
possible, you will be kind enough to do in this matter. 

Dear Sir, this perhaps was suffered to clear up some doubts, and 
to give opportunity to those whom I doubted to clear themselves of 
all imputation. If a man offends me ignorantly, and not designedly, 
surely I ought to consider him with favour and affection. Perhaps 
the simplicity of myself is the origin of all offences committed against 
me. If I have found this, I shall have learned a most valuable 
thing, well worth three years' perseverance. I harfe found it. It is 
certain that a too passive manner, inconsistent with my active physi- 
ognomy, had done me much mischief. I must now express to you 



JKT. 46-47.] LETTERS TO BUTTS. 1 93 

my conviction that all is come from the spiritual world for good and 
not for evil. 

Give me, your advice in my perilous adventure. Bum what I have 
peevishly written about any friend. I have been very much degraded 
and injuriously treated ; but if it all arise from my own fault, I ought 
to blame myself. 

why was I bom with a different face ? 
Why was I not bora like the rest of my race ? 

When I look, each one starts ; when I speak, I offend ; 
Then I'm silent and passive, and lose every friend. 

Then my verse I dishonour, my pictures despise ; 
My person degrade, and my temper chastise ; 
And the pen is my terror, the pencil my shame; 
All my talents I bury, and dead is my fame. 

1 am either too low or too highly priz'd ; 

When elate I am envied, when meek Tm despised. 

This is but too just a picture of my present state. I pray God to 
keep yon and all men from it, and to deliver me in His own good 
time. Pray write to me, and tell me how you and your family enjoy 
health. My much-terrified wife joins me in love to you and 
Mrs. Butts and all your family. I again take the liberty to beg of 
you to cause the inclosed letter to be delivered to my brother, and 
remain sincerely and affectionately 

Yours, William Blake. 

The sequel forcibly reminds us we are here in the times of 
'the good old king,' not in those of Victoria. The soldier 
and * his mate ' made their charge on oath before a magis- 
trate, and Blake had to stand his trial for high treason at the 
next Quarter Sessions. 

Hayley, full of zeal for the artist, whose extraordinary 
entanglement 'pressed not a little on his mind and heart,' 
engaged as defendant's counsel, his friend, Samuel Rose, 
another name familiar to the reader of Cowper's correspond- 
ence as that of the enthusiastic young Scotchman, who, at 
twenty-two, bad introduced himself to the shy recluse, 
winning a laige share of the poet's regard and favour. Now 
in his thirtieth year, he had been about eight years at the 

VOL. I. O 



A 



'\ -3 



194 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1803—1804. 

bar, practising with fair success on the home circuit Pros- 
pects of a brilliant future were only dashed by wavering 
health, — ^a constitution unequal to the strain of his profession. 
On that sunken rock, how many struggling in the same 
arduous career, — often those of brightest promise, of finest 
nature, — have been wrecked, almost at the outset ; not great 
and famous, but nameless and unremembered. 

Meanwhile, as the trial was not to come oflf till the follow- 
ing January, and all the arrangements for Blake's return to 
London had been completed, he quitted Felpham at the end 
of September, carrying with him Hayley's unabated good- 
will and esteem; some unfinished work for the Lives of 
Rontney and of Cowper; and charged also with instructions to 
glean all the particulars he could respecting Romney^s works. 
These instructions Blake zealously fulfilled, as letters written 
to Hayley during the next two years show. He left the 
literary hermit producing his daily occasional poem, epitaph, 
or song, on waking in the morning ; extempore sonnet while 
shaving ; and facile labours during the day, at an extensive 
composition on the Triumphs of Music^ 'with devotional 
sonnets and hymns interspersed.' Two days sufficed for a 
whole canto. This composition the English public has 
hitherto declined to trouble its head about, despite the con- 
fident prediction of an amiable female friend, ' that it would 
* gradually become a favourite with readers * of a turn * for 
' simplicity and tenderness.' 

A week or two after his return, Blake writes from South 
Molton Street : — 

October 26/A, 1803. 

Dear Sir, 

I hasten to write to you by the favour of Mr. Edwards. I 
have been with Mr. Saunders who has now in his possession all Mr. 
Romney's pictures that remained after the sale at Hampstead ; I saw 
Milton and his Daughters^ and ^Twas where the Seas were Roarings 
and a beautiful Female Head. He has promised to write a list of all 
that he has in his possession, and of all that he remembers of Mr. 
Romney's paintings, with notices where they now are, as far as his re- 
collection will serve. The picture of Christ in the Desert he supposes 



JET, 46—47] LETTERS TO HAYLEY. 1 95 

to be one of those which he has rolled on large rollers. He will take 
them down and unroll them, but cannot do it easily, as they are so 
laige as to occupy the whole length of his workshop, and are laid 
across beams at the tpp. 

Mr. Flaxman is now out of town. When he returns I will lose 
no time in setting him to work on the same object. 

I have got to work after Fuseli for a little Shakespeare. Mr. 
Johnson the bookseller tells me that there is no want of work. So 
far you will be rejoiced with me, and your words, ' £h not fear you 
can want employment ! ' were verified the morning after I received 
your kind letter ; but I go on finishing Romney with spirit, and for 
the relief of variety shall engage in other little works as they arise. 

I called on Mr. Evans who gives small hopes of our ballads ; he 
says he has sold but fifteen numbers at the most, and that going on 
would be a certain loss of almost all the expenses. I then proposed 
to him to take a part with me in publishing them on a smaller scale, 
which he declined on account of its being out of his line of business 
to pablishy and a line in which he is determined never to engage, 
attaching bimself wholly to the sale of fine editions of authors and 
curious books in general. He advises that some publisher should 
be spoken to who would purchase the copyright : and, as far as I can 
judge of the nature of publication, no chance is left to one out of 
the trade. Thus the case stands at present. God send better 
times. Everybody complains, yet all go on cheerfully and with 
spirit The shops in London improve ; everything is elegant, clean, 
and neat ; the streets are widened where they were narrow ; even 
Snow Hill is become almost level and is a very handsome street, and 
the narrow part of the Strand near St Clement's is widened and 
become very elegant. 

My wife continues poorly, but fancies she is better in health here 
than by the seaside. We both sincerely pray for the health of Miss 
Poole and for all our friends in Sussex, and remain, dear sir. 

Your sincere and devoted servants, 

W. and C. Blake. 

The trial came off at Chichester, i ith January, 1804, at the 
Quarter Sessions ; the Duke of Richmond (the radical, not 
the corn-law duke) being the presiding magistrate. The 
sessions were held, in those days, in the Guildhall, which is 
the shell of a Gothic building, having been formerly the 

o 2 



;\A 



196 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1803—1804. 

chancel, of Early English date, to the old church of the Grey 
Friars convent. The fragmentary chancel and the Friary 
grounds are still extant, just within what used to be the 
city walls, at the north-east comer of the cheerful old cathe- 
dral town. 

J A few days before the impending trial, Hayley met with an 
accident, which very nearly prevented his attending to give 
evidence in his protigfs favour. It was of a kind, however, 
to which he was pretty well accustomed. A persevering and 
fearless rider, he was in the eccentric habit of using an um- 
brella on horseback, to shade his ty^ ; the abrupt unfurling 
of which was commonly followed, naturally enough, by the 
rider's being forthwith pitched on his head. He had, on this 
occasion, lighted on a flint with more than usual violence; 
owing his life, indeed, to the opportune shield of a strong, 
new hat. * Living or dying,' however, he declares to his doctor, 
N^ he * must make a public appearance, within a few days, at the 

trial of our friend Blake.' And on the appointed day he did 
. appear in Court, to speak to the character and habits of the 
accused. 

Reference obligingly made for me by the present editor, to 
the file of the Sussex Advertiser, at that date the only Sussex 
newspaper, discovers a report (i6th Jan. 1804) of this singular 
trial ; one its inditer little thpught would ever become curious 
and interesting. The report is after the curt fashion of local 
journals in those backward days. 'William Blake, an en- 

* graver at Felpham, was tried on a charge exhibited against 

* him by two soldiers for having uttered seditious and treason- 
*able expressions, such as "D — n the king, d — n all his 
'"subjects, d — n his soldiers, they are all slaves; when 

* " Bonaparte comes, it will be cut-throat for cut-throat, and 

* '* the weakest must^o to the wall ; I will help him ; &c. &c" ' 

Mrs. Blake used afterwards to tell how, in the middle of 
the trial, when the soldier invented something to support his 
case, her husband called out * False f* with characteristic 
vehemence, and in a tone which electrified the whole court, 



/BT. 4^-47] TRIAL FOR SEDITION. I97 

and carried conviction with it. Rose greatly exerted himself 
for the defence. In his cross-examination of the accuser, 
he • most happily exposed/ says Hayley, ' the falsehood and 
' malignity of the charge, and also spoke very eloquently for 

* his client,' though, in the midst of his speech, seized with 
illness, and concluding it with difficulty. Blake's neighbours 
joined Hayley in giving him the same character of habitual 
gentleness and peaceableness ; which must have a little 
astonished the soldier, after his peculiar experiences of those 
qualities. A good deal of the two soldiers' evidence being 
plainly false, the whole was received with suspicion. It 
became clear that whatever the Words uttered, they were 
extorted, in the irritation of the moment, by the soldier's 
oflfensive conduct. 

' After a very long and patient hearing/ the Sussex Adver- 
tiser continues, *he was, by the jury, acquitted; which so 

* gratified the auditory that the court was, in defiance of all 

* decency, thrown into an uproar by their noisy exultations. 

* The business of the afore-going Sessions,* it is added, * owing 

* to the great length of time taken up by the above trials ' 
(Blake's and others), 'was extended to a late hour on the second 

* day, a circumstance that but rarely happens in the western 

* division ' of the county. * The Duke of Richmond sat, the first 
'day, from ten in the morning till eight at night, without 

* quitting the court, or taking any refreshment.' 

An old man at Chichester, but lately dead, who was present 
as a stripling, at the trial, attracted thither by his desire to 
see Hayley, * the great man ' of the neighbourhood, said, when 
questioned, that the only thing he remembered of it was - 
Blake's flashing eye. 

Great was Hayley's satisfaction. * It was late in the evening/ 
writes he to Johnson, and * I was eager to present the delivered 

* artist to our very kind and anxious friend, the lady of Lavant, 
' Mrs. Poole/ The friendly welcome and social evening meal 
which followed all this frivolous vexation and even peril, the 
pleasant meeting in the cheerful hospitable house of the 



I9S LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [iSo3--iSa4. 

venerable lady, we can picture. Her house, in whidi Blake 
often was, yet stands, some^riiat altered, by the wayside to 
the right as you enter the hamlet of Mid Lavant, ten minutes' 
drive from Chichester ; at the back, pleasant groonds slope 
down to the babbling Lavant brook, with a windii^ road 
beside it, across which rise other pleasant wooded slopes, 
and beyond, the solemn, rounded Downs, — in this part bare 
of trees; among them, to die right. Goodwood, and Aat 
specially conspicuous hill, the Trundle (or St. Roche's). The 
' peerless villa,' Hayley used to call it ; ever3rthing of his^ or 
of his friends, being more or less extracmlinary and romantic. 
The lady herself was a wotnan respected far and wide, sociable, 
cheerful, and benevolent. She is still remembered in those 
parts, though none of her kin remain there. 'Ah! good 
creature!' exclaimed an infirm old labourer but die odier 
day, on hearing mention of her name ; he had worked for 
her. She died at a ripe age, suddenly, while dining amoi^ 
her friends at the Bishop's palace, a little more than three 
years after Blake's trial. 

Poor Rose, — defendant's counsel, — never rallied from the 
illness which attacked him on that day. The 'severe cold' 
proved the commencement of a rapid consumption^ of which 
he died at the close of the same year; sorrowful Hayley 
effervescing into an * epitaph in the middle of the night' 

Not ten years before, quiet literary men and shoemakers, 
theoretic enthusiasts such as Home Tooke the learned and 
witty, Holcroft, Thelwall, Hardy, members of a corresponding 
society — society corresponding with * the friends of liberty' 
abroad that is — had been vindictively prosecuted by the 
Crown for (constructive) high treason, and almost convicted. 
At this very time, men were being hung in Ireland on such 
trivial charges. Blake's previous intimacy with Paine, Hol- 
croft, and the rest, was doubtless unknown to an unlettered 
soldier, and probably at Chichester also. But as a very dis- 
advantageous antecedent, in a political sense, of which counsel 
for the prosecution might have made good use, it was, in 



iBT. 46-47-] LETTERS TO HAYLEY. 1 99 

connexion with this va(nped-up charge, a curious coincidence. 
Friend Hayley himself was not a very orthodox man in 
politics or reh'gion, a Whig at the least, a quondam intimate 
of Gibbon's, admirer of Voltaire and Rousseau ; holding, in 
short, views of his own. He was a confirmed absentee, more- 
over, from church, though an exemplary reader, to his house- 
hold, of Church-service, and sermon, and family prayer, 
winding up with devotional hymns of his own composition. 

Blake used to declare the Government, or some high 
person, knowing him to have been of the Paine set, ' sent 
the soldier to entrap him ; ' which we must take the liberty of 
rq;arding as a purely visionary notion. 

The net result of this startling close to the tranquil episode 
of the life at Felpham was to revive, in Blake's generous 
heart, warm feelings of gratitude and affection towards Hayley, 
whose conduct on the occasion certainly had the ring of true 
metal in it. For a time, at any rate, it obliterated the sense 
of irritation and the intellectual scorn which had been en- 
gendered in Blake's mind, — witness various jottings in his 
note-book to be quoted hereafter, — ^by a too close companion- 
ship bringing into harsh prominence the inevitable yet ludi- 
crous social inversion of their true natural relations. Full of 
genuine solicitude on account of Hayley's rash horseman- 
ship, which had been so near proving fatal, he sends an 
emphatic caution on his return : — 

London, January 14, 1804. 

Dear Sir, 

I write immediately on my arrival, not merely to inform you 
that in a conversation with an old soldier, who came in the coach 
with me, I learned that no one, not even the most expert horseman, 
ought ever to mount a trooper's horse. They are taught so many 
trickSy such as stopping short, falling down on their knees, running 
sideways, and in various and innumerable ways endeavouring to 
throw the rider, that it is a miracle if a stranger escape with his 
life. All this I leam*d with some alarm, and heard also what the 
soldier said confirmed by another person in the coach. I therefore, 
as it is my duty, beg and entreat you never to mount that wretched 



200 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1803— 1804. 

horse again, nor again trust to one who ha^ been so educated. God 
our Saviour watch over you and preserve you. 

I have seen Flaxman abeady, as I took to him, early this morning, 
your present to his scholars. He and his are all well and in high 
spirits, and welcomed me with kind affection and generous exulta- 
tion in my escape from the arrows of darkness. I intend to see Mr. 
Lambert and Mr. Johnson, bookseller, this afternoon. My poor wife 
has been near the gate of death, as was supposed by our kind and 
attentive fellow inhabitant, the young and very amiable Mrs. Enoch, 
who gave my wife all the attention that a daughter could pay to a 
mother ; but my arrival has dbpelled the formidable malady, and my 
dear and good woman again begins to resume her health and strength. 
Pray, my dear sir, favour me with a line concerning your health, how 
you have escaped the double blow both from the wretched horse 
and from your innocent humble servant, whose heart and soul are 
more and more drawn out towards you, Felpham and its kind in- 
habitants. I feel anxious and therefore pray to my God and Father 
for the health of Miss Poole, and hope that the pang of affection and 
gratitude is the gift of God for good. I am thankful that I feel it ; 
it draws the soul towards eternal life, and conjunction with spirits of 
just men made perfect by love and gratitude, — the two angels who 
stand at Heaven's gate, ever open, ever inviting guests to the 
marriage. O foolish Philosophy ! Gratitude is Heaven itself ; there 
could be no Heaven without gratitude ; I feel it and I know it, I 
thank God and man for it, and above all, you, my dear friend and 
benefactor, in the Lord. Pray give my and my wife's duties to Miss 
Poole ; accept them yourself. 

Yours in sincerity, 

William Blake. 



CHAPTER XX. 

LETTERS TO HAYLEY. 1804—5. [^. 47-48.] 

Although the friendly haven of sweet Felpham was now 
finally exchanged for the deeper seclusion of the brick and 
mortar desert, in the hope of more perfect converse there with 
the visions, undistracted by appeals from the beauty of the 
visible world, or by teniptations from well-meaning patrons, 
above all, undisturbed by daily contact with so essentially 
material and eighteenth century a mind as Hayley's, a friendly 
relation between the two continued so long as there were any 
connecting links of work on one side or helpfulness on the 
other possible ; after which it died a natural death. A brisk 
and, for the most part, business-like, correspondence, warmed 
on Blake's side by the sincere gratitude which Hayley's con- 
duct in the closing adventure of their neighbourship had 
inspired, carries on the record of his practical work for the 
next year and a half Blake's lodgings in South Molton Street 
were within a mile of the spot where he was born. There 
neither garden nor tree reminded him of what he had left 
behind. South Molton Street, less shabby then than now, 
runs diagonally from Oxford Street into Brook Street. At 
No. 17 he took a first floor, in which he remained nearly 
seventeen years. Jan. 27th he writes thence to Hayley : — 

Your eager expectation of hearing from me compels rae to 
write immediately, tho' I have not done half the business I wish'd, 
owing to a violent cold which confined me to my bed three days and 
to my chamber a week. I am now so well, thank God, as to get 



202 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804— 1805. 

out, and have accordingly been to Mr. Walker, who is not in town, 
being at Birmingham, where he will remain six weeks or two months. 
I took my Portrait of Romney as you desired, to show him. His 
son was likewise not at home, but I will again call on Mr. Walker 
jun., and beg him to show me the pictures and make every inquiry 
of him, if you think best. Mr. Sanders has one or two large 
Cartoons. The subject he does not know. They are folded up on 
the top of his workshop : the rest he packed up and sent into the 
North. I showed your letter to Mr. John Romney to Mr. Flaxman 
who was perfectly satisfied with it. I seal'd and sent it immediately) 
as directed by Mr. Sanders, to Kendall, Westmoreland. Mr. Sanders 
expects Mr. Romney in town soon. Note, your letter to Mr. J. 
Ronmey ; I sent oflf the money after I received it from you, being 
then in health. I have taken your noble present to Mr. Rose, and 
left it with charge, to the servant, of great care. The writing looks very 
pretty. I was fortunate in doing it myself, and hit it ofif excellently. 
I have not seen Mr. Rose, tho' he is in town ; Mn Flaxman is not 
at all acquainted with Sir Allan Chambre ; recommends me to 
inquire concerning him of Mr. Rose. My brother says he believes 
Sir AUan is a Master in Chancery. Tho' I have called on Mr. 
Edwards twice for Lady Hamilton's direction, was so unfortunate as 
to find him out both times ; I will repeat my call on him to-monow 
morning. My dear sir I wish now to satisfy you that all is in a good 
train ; I am going on briskly with ^he Plates, find ever3rthing promising; 
work in abundance ; and if God blesses me with health, doubt not 
yet to make a figure in the great dance of life that shall amuse the 
spectators in the sky. I thank you for my Demosthenes, which has 
now become a noble subject. My wife gets better every day. Hope 
earnestly that you have escaped the brush of my Evil Star, which I 
believe is now for ever fallen into the abyss. God bless and pre- 
serve you and our good Lady Paulina with the good things both of 
this life and of eternity. And with you, my much admired and 
respected Edward the Bard of Oxford, whose verses still sound upon 
my ear like the distant approach of things mighty and magnificent, 
like the sound of harps which I hear before the Sun's rising, like the 
remembrance of Felpham's waves and of the glorious and far- 
beaming Turret, like the villa of Lavant blessed and blessing. Amen. 
God bless you all, O people of Sussex, around your Hermit and 
Bard. So prays the emulator of both his and your mild and happy 

temper of soul. 

Your Devoted, 

Will. Blake. 



ET. 47-4S] LETTERS TO HAYLEY. 203 

Diligent research as to who ** Edward the Bard of Oxf'/rd " 
night be, yields no other suggestion than that he wa? a certain 
»roung Mr. Edward Marsh of Oriel College, who, when vl*:t:ng 
Hayley while Blake was also h:s frequent g'-awt ar.d fello-v- 
[abourer^ had been wont to read alou^ to th^si th^ Herr:::ri 
[>wn compositions in a singularly trLeLodfoas vo^ot. 

Whilst engaged in collecting useful dtftafs for tbe /.//r </ 
Ramney, on which Hayley w^s ckyw fcr^sfy; ai w^I 4.t in 
executing two engraving? for ti:^ sasie, IfjiM wr;v:^, 
February 23rd, 1804:— 



I called vcsterday on Kr. Btafrrvaice tf rvr <^^vi^ ts^A 

foimd him quite as cheerrsi as t9i «£efrr>^ tfin tfl&i :nr «i!f 'ky/atf 

anoe should not have sxpc':«£id ion. ^ >t =esr itC!T; aKr.rcutrj:s«citii^ 

he was shaded by a gr«a. tna^fi* -si-r iia *7*rL H.* 5->«i ^ -s^rr 

spirited assnnmce of Mr. J^sdn SisniM^t jittruho^ lutuntif in v^ 

^eat object of his fxrhefi 5aut, txul rsmju. -^uk ii!: miisr v( ;^.vui '/ 

such a work in such hasuia^ M 'A iut ytzvr* fbva Vs^siit vnii^i 

yon desired him to pciyrsre isr t*:!!. le iuA zrx yK irjuui ^t^^Jt r 

IS ; supposes that k mar se 31 :ae irjer^i ttui tusr. ie luti^ i^dr'i 

from Mn Roame|r, wiio wIL 'ut jl ^^va kol iCr ^ o&sr.*:: .' 

win present hb compiimenci % v'w tad wrx^ yj\ tiot- ut uiu 

spoken wirii Mr. Read cnnrjsrmuf iut £jft if i'jmsf^ >%* rs^r.-^^x 

himself in it and faas pccmir i nr^ ^mrruH -una v' yi*mnitnu '^ 

{HCturcSy &C, Mr. Ravi lasrinf i umuvsr v ururiie; -nissin^ r. 

Ronmej, eidier written cr srmerL -mii^ i#t ^«vnifi»5» n "-v," vx /V' 

jour use, as also die Oetalcfoe '^f HianisjtfKsct t:8ir. >!'. .-.v^mw!: r.^ 

averjfine poctzait of SCa. iSiii^uui if \»rataxti? it, \vt, V-Ttt^. X^^ 

half-length, that s^ die aead vul iscuu. vui a i:^ >r$ f /^ 

also desics me to ex^rsm :» wi ii* ^m lu» v^n v«v;:/t {; ^ *.:'«' 

Public an engnnio^ of ^lac aetailiisn if« v-^nr rj:- , Kstx^..^^o :^/: 

which is placed over &ia <:nimai!?/ -yts^jt -y^T^m^'f^ un ,r^<v^ ..':> 

picture^ ooRCCt aad enlaqpsi '^i^uss; :trinL iAiir:^. ^fskiz -/ m.a^^ \.^ 

centre ornament tt wortfiy. c^ lavv: tut t. t. ^.7 at /; :^ v^r../^. 

the most eiact teseabiaoce 'sf ^^uBue:' 1^. •^'T ACT , jv:,;*- ..r^,>^ 

more the pleasBie cf joujraxcui uvi b^t te ^^i^or a&uu^^:^^,,.' r 

portrait of Roma^, aivi ^Miunrt isi^ Stat fr: ^./v.^.^ f « ^^^ ^i'^ 



I wish I could g^ ^vn. t -uesBOtf ^,'.v%r» / vir ^^^>.* 
CounceOor (Roie>, he^ abft «ai U n itfrt •K#9r ;. -.^cZ^it y^.^^vv^ 



204 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804—1805. 

at about 12 o'clock; the servant said that he remains very ill 
indeed. 

Mr. Walker I have been so unfortunate as not to find at home, 
but I will call again in a day or two. Neither Mr. Flaxman nor 
Mr. Edwards know Lady Hamilton's address : the house which Sir 
William Uved in, in Piccadilly, she left some time ago. Mr. Edwards 
will procure her address for you, and I will send it immediately. 
I have inclosed for you the twenty-two numbers of Fuseli's SAake- 
sp^arethax are out, and the book of Italian Letters from Mrs. Flaxman 
who with her admirable husband present their best compliments to 
you. He is so busy that I believe I shall never see him again but 
when I call on him ; for he has never yet, since my return to LondoD, 
had the time or grace to call on me. Mrs. Flaxman and her sister 
give also their testimony to my likeness of Romney. Mr. Flaxman 
I have not yet had an opportunity of consulting about it, but 
soon win. 

I inclose likewise the Academical Correspondence of Mr. Hoare 
the Painter, whose note to me I also inclose. For I did but express 
to him my desire of sending you a copy of his work, and the day 
after I received it with the note expressing his pleasure in your wish 
to see it. You would be much delighted with the man, as I assure 
myself you will be with his work. 

The plates of Cowper's monument are both in great forwardness 
and you shall have proofs in another week. I assure you that I will 
not spare pains, and am myself very much satisfied that I shall do 
my duty and produce two elegant Plates. There is, however, a great 
deal of work on them that must and will have time. 

' Busy, busy, busy, I bustle along 
Mounted upon warm Phoebus' ray 
Thro' the heavenly throng.' 

But I hastened to write to you about Mr. Braithwaite. Hope 
when I send my proofs to give as good an account of Mr. Walker. 

My wife joins me in respects and love to you and desires with 
mine to present hers to Miss Poole. 

The medallion by Thomas Hayley mentioned above was 
eventually given in the Life^ but not from Blake's hand. It 
was drawn by Maria Denman, Flaxman*s sister-in-law, and 
engraved by Caroline Watson. 



47— 4«.l LETTERS TO HAYLEY. 20$ 

yLr. Hoare here spoken of, was the well-known and 
x>mplished Prince Hoare, painter and son of a painter, 

studied in Rome under Mengs in 1776, with Fuseli 

1 Northcote for companions. He was the author of 
ne twenty slight dramatic pieces, among them the long 
pular No Song^ No Supper^ and of many essays on subjects 
inected with the Fine Arts ; and was made Foreign Secre- 
y of the Royal Academy in 1799; in which capacity he 
blished the Extracts from a Correspondence with the 
*ademies of Vienna and St. Petersburg on the Cultivation 

Paintings Sculpture and Architecture alluded to. March 
th, Blake writes : — 

Dear Sir, 

I begin with the latter end of your letter and grieve more for 
S8 Poole's ill-health than for my failure in sending the proofs, 
^ugh I am very sorry that I cannot send before Saturday's coach, 
graving is Eternal Work. The two plates are almost finished. 
u will receive proofs of them from Lady Hesketh, whose copy of 
(wper's letters ought to be printed in letters of gold and oma- 
EDted with jewels of Heaven, Havilah, Eden, and all the 
in tries where jewels abound. I curse and bless Engraving alter- 
tdy because it takes so much time and is so intractable, though 
>able of such beauty and perfection. My \^4fe desires me to 
press her love to you, praying for Miss Poole's perfect recovery, 
d we both remain. 

Your affectionate, 

Will. Blake. 

The plates mentioned are probably the two tame engrav- 
gs already described for the supplementary third volume 
Cowper's Life and Letters. 

Which of Romney's works should be chosen to illustrate 
s Life was still under discussion. Blake writes : — 

April 2nd f 1804. 

* ♦ Mr. Flaxman advises that the drawing of Mr. Romney's which 
all be chosen instead of the Witch (if that cannot be recovered) be 
ecate, the figure with the torch and snake, which he thinks one of 



2o6 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804—1805. 

the finest drawings. The twelve impressions of each of the plates 
which I now send ought to be unrolled immediately that you receive 
them and put under somewhat to press them flat. You should have 
had fifteen of each, but I had not paper enough in proper order for 
printing. There is now in hand a new edition of Flaxman's Homer 
with additional designs, two of which I am now engraving. I am 
uneasy at not hearing from Mr. Dally, to whom I inclosed ;;^i5 
in a letter a fortnight ago, by his desire. I write to him by this post 
to inquire about it Money in these times is not to be trifled with. 
I have now cleared the way to Romney, in whose service I now 
enter again with great pleasure, and hope soon to show you my zeal 
with good effect Am in hopes that Miss Poole is recovered, as you 
are silent on that most alarming and interesting topic in both your 
last letters. God be with you in all things. My wife joins me in 
this prayer. 

I am, dear Sir, 

Your sincerely affectionate, 

WiLLM. Blake. 

The next letter broaches a scheme of which, since it was 
never realized, no more can be said than is told in this, and in 
a subsequent letter. But its originator, Richard Phillips, the 
* man of vast spirit, enterprise, and solidity,' demands a 
passing notice. First a schoolmaster at Chester, then a 
bookseller at Leicester, he was among the number of those 
prosecuted and imprisoned in 1793 for selling Paine's Rights 
of Man. Soon after his release he, having realized a con- 
siderable sum by speculating in canal shares, started with the 
aid of republican friends, the Monthly Magazine as an organ of 
the ' democratic ' party, contributing frequent articles himself 
signed * Common Sense/ He besides embarked first in the 
hosiery and then in the bookselling business again, on a large 
scale. Three years after the date of the following letter, he 
was made one of the SheriflTs of the City of London, and on 
presenting an address * accepted the honour of knighthood 
to the great astonishment of his republican friends.' He 
became bankrupt shortly after ; but the Magazine was bought 
in by friends, and he became its editor. 



- i ♦ ■ J '^ •^- -.^----J,- ^^, 



Apru jti Kffiy ■pr:i2s . — 

Vt-AX Sia. 

Yai cEt xsTPt liZ ifi2s^ iTTfi*g= yDL "PETS n " .Tmrlinr s I mr. 
low iiiacL TTsr urmt s Jc»r»:i sic rsensL I Jar^ :iie *rrr"=mt* 

nil be piff«fff vicL zzd I icce -viL aaict znf nrfnra'r 2: nm**y 
thro' 3Ir. Hcor. x-aiL 3fc. ynTTxff af 5u rmT* T> . ii-Jl ' _^ ^ 1 I: 
is^ as ycL sz f 'ft s sszrsi iisrvsst it. « — jlz. r: — nil n't'yh nnr 
irin remaiB so :£! j-ac br^r p^st T^rr iV'-««mT ILl PuIIirs s x 
□Ban of TBt 3Cflr5c xal nr^^irla*. "rrx x ynnrr zf -^-iTrTt-i*^ -v^il^. 
few tefc ; be 21 tie sstr -rii: icnilisc t: C:^«r f^r rac grrrrtr in 



EiToar of a prsocaer 22 Leirfscir- »^± I :«;ili*T» jot ±innriE ic 313c 
to print ; so tocs see re » sccmsCj ac t32e?i ▼idi is. Ha ccccec- 

him to ^ if ■*=»**> pirio'-rnag n- zz ^r^mr^'V: 



Mr. Hoorc tfaar oc die :xesc=s w^ci. irxri be znztjsa n ijiiriu 
with your awwyaTarr^ b* ctn sSzri is nT*'^-' j^zjux, 2, yisz. It. 
Phillips cocsiders yoc as ±e zrsn "r^rSr cr-u.- hr^r' zs. Tvrv ! r ^ saf 
his tenns to others will 2=:c«iii: i:» cclx oce -tzst-jsz kl wic ie in- 
poses to jou. I send, z>:j:aed. 13 ifzzsL s Ys, H-Ziart zj irj 
desire has g^rcn tfccm to =e i= ^Tvvrg, KiC'r^ toe: n'ssm « 
iciic w i and reriewii^ I cccsyjer ±e irssezc incosl £S 
adapted to jour ideas. It cuzr ie c^Uf a l>*^A'jt zi Zm 



against those pests of the press, and 2. icjv^ric 5:r rszns. -viirii 
shall, with joar good assistance, cisperse ^inse T*bcL2jOfs sdrrzi ic 
Envy and Malignity. In sbort, if yci see :: ii I »ee ±- j^c wZ 
embrace this proposal on the score cf pgjer*al crn-. Tfr^j^* .■■ » 3 
jrour child. She caDs for yocr asrLstaixx ! Yoc, wio cersr rt^se V-, 
asrist any, how remote so ever, win cenalrlj hear ier Tirce. Yvrr 
answer to the proposal you wilL if yoa think £1 direct to Mr. H'-jsrt. 
who is worthy of e\'ery confidence joa can place in ^^ 

I am. dear Sir. 

Your anxiooilv de-^oted 

Will. Eu^ke. 

Blake seems to have had this scheme of starting a Review 
much at heart : — 

j4/tL' 27/4, 1^4, 

Dear Sir, 

I have at length seen Mr. Hoare, after having repeatedly called 
on him every day and not finding him. I now understand that he 



208 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804—1805. 

received your reply to P.'s proposal at Brighton, where he has a 
residence, from whence he sent it to London to Mr. Phillips ; he has 
not seen P. since his return, and therefore cannot tell me how he 
understood your answer. Mr. H. appears to me to consider it as a 
rejection of the proposal altogether. I took the liberty to tell him 
that I could not consider it so, but that as I understood you, you 
had accepted .the spirit of P.'s intention, which was to leave the 
whole conduct of the affair to you, and that you had accordingly 
nominated one of your friends and agreed to nominate others. But 
if P. meant that you should yourself take on you the drudgery of the 
ordinary business of a review, his proposal was by no means a 
generous one. Mr. H has promised to see Mr. Phillips immediately, 
and to know what his intentions are ; but he says perhaps Mr. P. 
may not yet have seen your letter to him, and that his multiplicity of 
business may very well account for the delay. I have seen our 
excellent Flaxman lately ; he is well in health, but has had such a 
burn on his hand as you had once, which has hindered his working 
for a fortnight It is now better ; he desires to be most affectionately 
remembered to you ; he began a letter to you a week ago ; perhaps 
by this time you have received it ; but he is also a laborious votaiy 
of endless work. Engraving is of so slow process, I must b^ of 
you to give me the earliest possible notice of what engraving is to be 
done for the Life of Roniney, Endless work is the true tide of 
engraving, as I find by the things I have in hand day and night We 
feel much easier to hear that you have parted with your horse. 
Hope soon to hear that you have a living one of brass, a Pegasus of 
Corinthian metal ; and that Miss Poole is again in such health as 
when she first mounted me on my beloved Bruno. I forgot to 
mention that Mr. Hoare desires his most respectful compliments to 
you. Speaks of taking a ride across the country to Felpham, as he 
always keeps a horse at Brighton. My wife joins me in love to you. 

I remain, yours sincerely, 

William Blake. 

* In engraver's hurry, which is the worst and most unprofit- 
able of all hurries,' are the words with which Blake concludes 
a brief business note. Yet besides this 'endless work' of 
engraving, and the huge labour of producing the yerusalem 
and MiltoUy also accomplished this year, he continued dib- 
gent in collecting serviceable details 0* Romney*s works for 



AST. 47—48] LETTERS TO HAYLEY. 209 

Hayley s slowly progressing Life, as the following letters 
show : — 

May 4/ A, 1804. 

Dear Sir, 

I thank you sincerely for Falconer, an admirable Poet, and 
the admirable prints to it by Fettler. Whether you intended it or 
not, they have given me some excellent hints in engraving ; his manner 
of working is what I shall endeavour to adopt in many points. I 
have seen the elder Mr. Walker. He knew and admired without any 
pre£Eu:e, my print of Romney, and when his daughter came in he 
gave the print into her hand without a word, and she immediately 
said, * Ah 1 Romney ! younger than I have known him, iut very like 
indeed! Mr. Walker showed me Romney's first attempt at oil paint- 
ing ; it is a copy from a Dutch picture — Dutch boor smoking ; on the 
back is written, 'This was the first attempt at oil painting by 
G. Romney.' He shew'd me also the last performance of Romney. 
It is of Mr. Walker and family, the draperies put in by somebody 
else. It is a very excellent picture, but unfinished. The figures as 
large as life, half length, Mr. W., three sons, and I believe two 
daughters, with maps, instruments, &c Mr. Walker also shew'd me 
a portrait of himself (W.), whole length on a canvas about two feet 
by one and a half; it is the first portrait Romney ever painted. 
But above all, a picture of Lear and Cordelia^ when he awakes and 
knows her, — ^an incomparable production which Mr. W. bought for 
five shillings at a broker's shop; it is about five feet by four, and 
exquisite for expression, indeed it is most pathetic; the heads of 
Lear and Cordelia can never be surpassed, and Kent and the other 
attendant jare admirable ; the picture is very highly finished. Other 
things I saw of Romney's first works,^ — two copies, perhaps from 
Boigognone, of battles ; and Mr. Walker promises to collect all he 
can of information for you. I much admired his mild and gentle, 
benevolent manners ; it seems as if all Romney^s intimate friends 
w^re truly amiable and feeling like himself. 

I have also seen Alderman Boydel, who has promised to get the 
number and prices of all Romne/s prints as you desired. He has 
sent a Catalogue of all his Collection, and a Scheme of his Lottery ; 
desires his compliments to you, says he laments your absence from 
London, as your advice would be acceptable at all times but especially 
at the present He is very thin and decay'd, and but the shadow of 
what he was ; so he is now a Shadow's Shadow ; but how can we expect 
a very stout man at eighty-five, which age he tells me he has now 



210 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804-1805. 

reached ? You would have been pleas'd to see his eyes light up at 
the mention of your name. 

Mr. Flaxman agrees with me that somewhat more than outline is 
necessary to the execution of Romney's designs, because his merit is 
eminent in the art of massing his lights and shades. I should 
propose to etch them in a rapid but firm manner, somewhat, perhaps, 
as I did the Headof Euler ; the price I receive for engraving Flax- 
man's outlines of Homer is five guineas each« I send the Domeni- 
chino, which is very neatly done. His merit was but little in light 
and shade ; outline was his element, and yet these outlines give but a 
faint idea of the finished prints from his works, several of the best of 
which I have. I send also the French monuments, and inclose with 
them a catalogue of Bell's Gallery and another of the Exhibitioii 
which I have not yet seen. I mentioned the pictures fix)m Sterne to 
Mr. Walker ; he says that there were several ; one, a garden scene 
with uncle Toby and Obadiah planting in the garden ; but that of 
Lefevre's Death he speaks of as incomparable, but cannot tell where 
it now is, as they were scatter'd abroad, being disposed of by means 
of a raffle. He supposes it is in Westmoreland ; promises to make 
every inquiry about it Accept also of my thanks for Cowper's 
third volume, which I got, as you directed, of Mr. Johnson. I have 
seen Mr. Rose ; he looks, tho' not so well as I have seen him, yet 
tolerably, considering the terrible storm he has been thro' ! He says 
that the last session was a severe labour, indeed it must be so to a 
man just out of so dreadful a fever. I also thank you for your very 
beautiful little poem on the King's recovery; it is one of the prettiest 
things I ever read, and I hope the King will live to fulfil the prophecy 
and die in peace : but at present, poor man, I understand he is poorly 
indeed, and times threaten worse than ever. I must now express my 
sorrow and my hopes for oift good Miss Poole, and so take my leave 
for the present with the joint love of my good woman, who is still 
stiff-knee'd but well in other respects. 

I am, dear Sir, 

Yours most sincerely, 

WiLUAM Blakr. 

May i&th, 1804. 

Dear Sir, 

I thank you heartily for your kind offer of reading, &c. I have 
read the book thro' attentively and was much entertain'd and in- 
structed, but have not yet come to the Life of Washington, I suppose 



iCT. 47—^] UTTTEXL!^ 




an AmenoB woaid. ie& 2Be sac "" "—^'"y mc. al tarn: wa^ iiaD± 
before he was boE^ as ok JtraBai jmv aooR TiaHi^iMri,> asL mt 
English our poor Gam^ ; m> lae *^n i r'.'ii'ni> -wdL "Taiwry* li^iasnm«!zxir 
as their god. Jhn m anhr Gbob. it sztier TIainBL w trvm >. aar 
perhaps win be senr d ^> m 
the happincs of 
Cowpcr and 
Mr. PhOlva 

Mr. Cair calTd cm ok, and L ai vos r^^am^ ^grt hmc i iuaoiT 

of the leiie w iii g bvanev as for a» I aiL acgcamsc ^ott: r. Si: 

desiiesmetoeKpneslDTOB^HBiie vnifc xeasiir ^evms: hmtt^ic 

the buaiiies in all a^UxKxnB ponE. if vol wmuc si^ fH:3r(ii: tac: 

direction; and he danks it anpir ie dout vni verr inltt trDiuit& tt^ 

jTOu. He is Bov gpiag ^ i^san^ : '3JDfp& Txac Hit jg^mliaii tag f tr 

this bosinesi is not vixjH^ M asc end. Inc tiia: nc h» i^mnx: iie may 

still perfonn his best, as jionr nsiwtFiii' miL I havt; oeiiwerEi: titc; 

letter to Mr. EdvaidSy who viQ pve it imnefiaueir tc* l^ov^ tTamtntir.. 

Mr. Walker I hare agsin sees : ht jvambcs t& wHkrc: numtsuut 

particulais coiiccniing JLoomcj aikd senc iixm tit ywk — msm^ok ut 

has not had a line from joa : desires mt u» aaBiii>& vtn: of bit vast tt* 

give eveiy informatioD ia his pover. Ssars thai J rial ban: Z^aar 

and Cordelia to oopf if jod deme it rixnac be ^one : fnipf/t«» tua: 

Romney was about dgjitecn wiien he p^nsec r ; it Ji> tueidfuit; 

dottUj interesdng. Mr. Walker is tnuf ac amiatiit: max. ; spokt of 

Mr. Green as the oldest £aend cf KanDmej. who kx^^ir most o(fiK«n> 

ing him of any one ; fan^rmwl the lifik djlfereoot; ^iat suuustec 

between you, ycakitig of yen, both with ptrat afiectioii. Mr. ^xax- 

man has also promised Id write aH he knows or cao collect cti&oemi])^ 

Romney, and send to yoo. Mr. Sanders has proanised u» writ^ u> 

Mr. J. Romney immediatdy, desiring him to give us liberty' tg copy 

any of his iather^s designs dial Mx. FksnuuD may select for ttxat 

purpose; doubts not at all of Mr. £omne/s seadiness Vj send 

any of the cartoons to London yon desire ; if tins can be done it 

will be all that could be widied. I ^>oke to Mr. Fkaman about 

choosing out proper subjects for our purpose ; he has promised to do 

80. I hope soon to send you Flazman's adrice upon this aitick. 

When I repeated to Mr. Phillqjs your intention of taking the books 

you want from his shop, he made a reply to the foUowii^ purpose : — 

' I shall be very proud to have Mr. Hayley's name in my books, but 

'please to express to him my hope that he will consider me as the 



212 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804—1805. 

* sincere friend of Mr. Johnson, who is (I have every reason to say) 
< both the most generous and honest man I ever knew, and ifith 
' whose interest I should be so averse to interfere that I should wish 

* him to have the refusal first of anything before it should be offered to 
' me, as I know the value of Mr. Hayle/s connexion too well to interfere 
' between my best friend and him.' This Phillips spoke with real 
affection, and I know you will love him for it, and will also respect 
Johnson the more for such testimony ; but to balance all this I must, 
in duty to my friend Seagrave [the Chichester printer] tell you that 
Mr. Rose repeated to me his great c^inion of Mr. Johnson's int^;rity 
while we were talking concerning Seagrave's printing : it is but justice 
therefore, to tell you that I perceive a determination in the London 
booksellers to injure Seagrave in your opinion, if possible. Johnson 
may be very honest and very generous, too, where his own interest is 
concerned, but I must say that he leayes no stone untum'd to serve 
that interest, and often (I think) unfairly ; he always has taken care, 
when I have seen him, to rail against Seagrave, and I perceive that 
he does the same by Mr. Rose. Mr. Phillips took care to repeat 
Johnson's railing to me, and to say that country printers could not 
do anything of consequence. Luckily he found fault with the paper 
which Cowper's Life is printed on, not knowing that it was fiunish'd 
by Johnson. I let him run on so far as to say that it was scandalous 
and unfit for such a work ; here I cut him short by asking if he knew 
who fumish'd the paper, he answered, ' I hope Mr. J, did not' I 
assured him that he did, and here he left off; desiring me to tell you 
that the Life of Washington was not put to press till the 3rd of this 
month (May), and on the 13th he had deliver'd a dozen copies at 
Stationers Hall, and by the i6th five hundred were out This is 
swift work if literally true, but I am not apt to believe literally what 
booksellers say ; and on comparing Cowper with Washif^tan must as- 
sert that except paper (which is Johnson's fault) Cowper is far the best, 
both as to type and printing. Pray look at Washington as far as 
page 177, you will find that the type is smaller than from 177 to 308, 
the whole middle of the book being printed with a larger and better 
type than the two extremities ; also it is carefiilly hot-pressed I say 
thus much being urged thereto by Mr. Rose's observing some defects 
in Seagrave's work, which I conceive were urged upon him by John- 
son : and as to the time the booksellers would take to execute any 
work, I need only refer to the little job which Mr. Johnson was to get 
done for our friend Dally. He promised it in a fortnight, and it b 
now three months and is not yet completed. I could not avoid say- 



^T. 47—48.] LETTERS TO HAYLEY. 21 3 

ing thus much in justice to our good Seagrave, whose replies to Mr, 
Johnson's aggravating letters have been represented to Mr. Rose in 
an unfair light, as I have no doubt ; because Mr. Johnson has, at times, 
written such letters to me as would have called for the sceptre of Aga- 
memnon rather than the tongue of Ulysses, and I will venture to give 
it as my settled opinion that if you suffer yourself to be persuaded to 
print in London you will be cheated every way ; but, however, as 
some little excuse, I must say that in London every calumny and 
falsehood utter'd against another of the same trade is thought fair 
play. Engravers, Painters, Statuaries, Printers, Poets we are not in a 
field of battle but in a City of Assassinations. This makes your lot truly 
enviable, and the country is not only more beautiful on account of its 
expanded meadows, but also on account of its benevolent minds. 
My wife joins with me in the hearty wish that you may long enjoy 
your beautiful retirement 

I am, with best respects to Miss Poole, for whose health we 
constantly send wishes to our spiritual friends. 

Yours sincerely, 

William Blake. 

P.S. — Mr. Walker says that Mr. Cumberland is right in his reckon- 
ing of Romney's age. Mr. W. says Romney was two years older than 
himself, consequently was bom 1734. 

Mr. Flaxman told me that Mr. Romney was three years in Italy ; 
that he returned twenty-eight years since. Mr. Humphry, the Painter, 
was in Italy the same time with Mr. Romney. Mr. Romney lodged 
at Mr. Richter's, Great Newport Street, before he went; took the 
house in Cavendish Square immediately on his return ; but as Flax- 
man has promised to put pen to paper you may expect a full account 
of all he can collect. Mr. Sanders does not know the time when 
Mr. R. took or left Cavendish Square house. 

In the sequel, Blake's portrait of Romney was laid aside 
and the Sketch of a Shipwreck, a fine and characteristic bit of 
engraving, was his sole contribution to the Life. Of the re- 
maining eleven plates, all, save one, after pictures by Romney, 
most were engraved by Caroline Watson, in her very fascinat- 
ing style, bold and masterly, yet graceful. The Infant Shake- 
speare^ Sensibility, Cassandra, Miranda are well known to the 
collector. One of the engravings, a poor Head of Christ, is 



214 i'lFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. |iSch— 1S05. 

by Raimbach, afterwards femous as Wilkie's engraver. 
Another, from a curious early effort of Romne/s in the comic 
vein — The Introduction of Slop into the Parlour of Shamfy—is 
by W. Haines, a Sussex man, then an engraver, subsequently 
a painter of repute. 

Si;^Umier90tJk^ 1804. 

Dear Sir, 

I hope you will excuse my delay in sending the books which 
I have had some time, but kept them back till I could send a Proof 
of the Shipwreck^ which I hope will please. It yet wants all its last 
and finishing touches, but I hope jrou will be enaUed by it to jud^ 
of the pathos of the picture. I send Washington's second volume, 
five numbers of Fuseli's Shakespeare^ and two vols, with a letter firom 
Mr. Spilsbuiy, with whom I accidentally met in the Strand. He says 
that he relinquished painting as a profession, for which I think he 
is to be applauded : but I conceive that he may be a much better 
painter if he practises secretly and for amusement than he could 
ever be if employed in the dmdgeiy of fashionable daubing for a 
poor pittance of money in retum for the sacrifice of Art and Genius. 
He says he never will leave to practice the Art, because he loves it, 
and this alone will pay its labour by success, if not of money, yet of 
true Art, which is all. I had the pleasure of a caU finom Mrs. Chet- 
wynd and her brother, a giant in body, mild and polite in soul, as I 
have, in general, found great bodies to be ; they were mudi pleased 
with Romney's Designs. Mrs. C. sent to me the two articles for you, 
and for the safety of which by the coach I had some fear, till Mr. 
Meyer obligingly undertook to convey them safe. He k now, I sup- 
pose, enjo)ring the delights of the tiuret of lovely Felpham ; please to 
give my affectionate compliments to him. I cannot help suggesting 
an idea which has struck me very forcibly, that the ToUtand Ihbias 
in your bedchamber would make a veiy beautiful engraving done 
in the same manner as the Head of Cowper^ after Lawrence; the 
heads to be finished, and the figures to be left exactly in imita- 
tion of the first strokes of the painter. The expression of those 
truly pathetic heads would then be transmitted to the public, a 
singular monument of Romney's genius in that slightest branch 
of art. I must now tell my wants, and beg the favour of some 
more of the needful The favour of ten pounds more will carry me 
through this plate, and the Head of Romney^ for which I am already 
paid. You shall soon see a proof of him in a very advanced state. 
I have not yet proved it, but shall soon, when I will send you one. 



/KT. 47--4«-] LETTERS TO HAYLEY. 21 5 

I rejoice to hear from Mr. Meyer of Miss Podle's continued recovery. 
My wife desires with me her respects to you, and her, and to all 
whom we love, that is, to all Sussex. 

I remain, 

Your sincere and obliged humble servant, 

Will. Blake. 

In the midst of all these business details, valuable as 
showing Blake's perfect sanity and prudence in the conduct 
of practical affairs, it is refreshing to come upon a letter 
written in his visionary vein. 

23n/ Oct. 1804. 

Dear Sir, 

I received your kind letter with the note to Mr. Payne, and 
have had the cash from him. I should have returned my thanks 
immediately on receipt of it, but hoped to be able to send, before 
now, proofs of the two plates, the Head of R. and the Shipwreck^ 
which you shall soon see in a much more perfect state. I write 
immediately because you wish I should do so, to satisfy you that 
I have received your kind favour. 

I take the extreme pleasure of expressing my joy at our good 
Lady of Lavanfs continued recovery, but with a mixture of sincere 
sorrow on account of the beloved Councillor. My wife returns her 
heartfelt thanks for your kind inquiry concerning her health. She is 
surprisingly recovered. Electricity is the wonderful cause ; the swell- 
ing of her legs and knees is entirely reduced. She is very near as 
free from rheumatism as she was five years ago, and we have the 
greatest confidence in her perfect recovery. 

The pleasure of seeing another poem from yoiir hands has 
truly set me longing (my wife says I ought to have said us) with 
desire and curiosity ; but, however, " Christmas is a coming." 

Our good and kind friend Hawkins is not yet in town — hope 
soon to have the pleasure of seeing him — with the courage of con- 
scious industry, worthy of his former kindness to me. For now ! 
O GkMry ! and O Delight 1 I have entirely reduced that spectrous 
Fiend to his station, whose annoyance has been the ruin of my 
labours for the last passed twenty years of my life. He is the 
enemy of conjugal love, and is the Jupiter of the Greeks, an iron- 
hearted tyrant, the miner of ancient Greece. I speak with perfect 
confidence and certainty of the fact which has passed upon me. 
Nebuchadnezzar had seven times passed over him, I have had 



220 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. Ii&S- 

edition. And he will go equal shares with me in the expense and 
the profits, and that Seagrave is to be the printer. That we niiut 
consider aU that has been printed as lost, and begin anew, unless we 
can apply some of the plates to the new edition. I consider myself 
as only put in trust with this work, and that the copyright is for em 
yours. I, therefore, beg that you will not suffer it to be injured l^ my 
ignorance, or that it should in any way be separated from the grand 
bulk of your literary property. Truly proud I am to be in possession 
of this beautiful little estate ; for that it will be hi^ly productive, I 
have no doubt, in the way now proposed ; and I shall consider myself 
a robber to retain more than you at any time please to grant In 
short, I am tenant at will, and may write over my door as the poor 
barber did, " Money for live here." 

I entreat your immediate advice what I am to do, for I would not 
for the world injure this beautiful work, and cannot answer P.'s pro- 
posal till I have your directions and commands concerning it ; for he 
wishes to set about it immediately, and has desired that I will give 
him my proposal concerning it in writing. 
I remain, dear Sir, 

Your obliged and affectionate. 

Will. Blake. 

April as/A, 1805. 

Dear Sir, 

This morning I have been with Mr. Phillips, and have entirely 
settled with him the plan of engraving for the new edition of the 
Ballads. The prints, five in number, I have engaged to finish by 
z8th May ; they are to be as highly finished as I can do them, the 
size the same as the seven plates, the price 20 guineas each, half to 
be prepaid by P. The subjects I cannot do better than those 
already chosen, as they are the most eminent among animals, via, : — 
the Lion, the Eagle, the Horse, the Dog. Of the dog spedcs, the two 
ballads are so pre-eminent, and my designs for them please me so wdl, 
that I have chosen that design in our last number, of the dog and 
crocodile, and that of the dog defending his dead master from ]die 
vultures. Of these five I am mnVrng little high finisheti pictures the 
size the engravings are to be, and I im hard aX it to accomplish in 
time what I intend. Mr. P. says he will send Mr. Seagrave the 
paper directly. 

The journeymen printers thn ""■' ^ ™>A*»5«"» »( ^ta «ritll 
their masters, and are likely to get 1 



/ET. 47— 4».l LETTERS TO HAYLEY. 21/ 

two pamphlets to be found in the ' Dance Collection ' in the 
Bodleian Library. One is a Proposal for the Establishment 
of a Public Gallery of Pictures in London^ by Count Joseph 
Truchsess, London, 1802 ; and the other a Catalogue of tlte 
Truchsessian Picture Gallery, Now Exhibiting in the New 
Road, opposite Portland Place, London, 1803. In the first 
of these, the Count, who signs himself Joseph, Count 
Truchsess, of Zeyl-Wurzach, Grand Dean of the Cathe- 
dral of Strasburg and Canon of the Metropolitan Chapter 
of Cologne, affirms that he has lost a large fortune in the 
French Revolution, but has saved with difficulty a very 
large and valuable collection of pictures, which he has been 
obliged to 'pledge' in Vienna. He refers to the Imperial 
Academy of Vienna and to many travelling Englishmen of 
distinction, especially Lord Minto, as willing to attest its 
genuineness and importance. He proposes to bring the 
best part of the collection to England and make it the 
nucleus of a gallery, in which people may find the ' means 
of making themselves acquainted with all the schools of 
painting/ He then proposes that a company shall be 
formed to raise the requisite amount (60,000 guineas) and 
gives references to well-known bankers who will act as his 
trustees. He is not, he writes, 'an adventurer, nor his 
gallery a chimera,' and ' all who are particularly acquainted 
with him will gladly do justice to the uprightness of his 
moral character/ As to his subscribers, 'their names shall 
not only be publicly printed, but they shall also remain 
indelibly engraven on his heart.' In the Catalogue, printed 
next year, there is no information regarding the purchase of 
the pictures. Their whole number is very large, and they are 
classified as follows : — 

(i) German Painters: — among whom are Albert Diirer, 
Brand, Edlinger, Hans Holbein senior (father of the great 
painter), Roos, Sarbach, &c, &c 

(2) Dutch and Flemish: — Aertsens, Breughel, Vandyck, 
Geldorp, De Laar, Miel, Uchterwelt, &c. &c. 



222 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1805. 

to supply its deficiency or to new create it according to your 
wish: — 

' The public ought to be informed that these Ballads were the 
*• effusions of friendship to countenance what their author is kindly 
' pleased to call talents for designing and to relieve my more laborious 
*• engagement of engraving those portraits which accompany the Lifi 
^of Cowpcr, Out of a number of designs, I have selected five, and 
' hope that the public will approve of my rather giving few highly 
' laboured plates than a greater number and less finished. If I have 
'succeeded in these, more may be added at pleasure.' 

Will. Blake 

It was, no doubt, an irksome task to be continually ex- 
pressing thanks for work that was in the main little congenial, 
and admiration for Hayley's own performances, which though 
the warmth of Blake's friendly and grateful feelings enabled 
him to utter with sincerity at the time, his cooler judgment 
must have declined to ratify. It is not surprising, therefore, 
that in the MS. Note-book before alluded to, which in his 
spleenful as well as in his elevated moods appears to have 
generally lain at the artist's elbow, we find such a couplet as 
the following : — 

On H. \Hayley\ the Pickthank, 

I write the rascal thanks till he and I 

With thanks and compliments are both drawn dry. 

The next letter, last of the series, June 4th, 1805, refers to 
the Advertisement again : a matter in which Mr. Phillips 

showed excellent discernment. 

June^, 1805. 
Dear Sir, 

I have fortimately, I ought to say providentially, discovered 
that I have engraved one of the plates for that ballad of The Horse 
which is omitted in the new edition ; time enough to save the extreme 
loss and disappointment which I should have suffered had the work 
been completed without that ballad's insertion. I write to entreat 
that you would contrive so as that my plate may come into the work, 
as its omission would be to me a loss that I could not now sustain 



iET. 4&] LETnULS TG E-lVL^T*. 1-5 

as it would cut off ten gomeas firoa OLf oifsr desmxxfi on ?'^ili^<^. 
whidi som I am m i it w^ flf i ^r want of; as weu. as Tiar I fixcniii Jias: 
all the labour I hanre been at oa doc plate*, ^rach. I cnrisifttr n? znst 
of my best ; I knov it has cost me immffTfBt IsLzcur^ Tm -tlj hi 
whidi I d isco v eicd tibis *"*g»^fa* hodd. enough. Mr. rVnlxit ccprc 
altogether to tiie insertioa of mj AdTertseoxesc ciITnTir x la c; 



to charity, and sa^ tint it will hart the ssle of dse ^rotk. asif ^ sec 
to me the last sheet bf die penny ^t&at s ^re 'Twnc^sasj. zfjeL 
desiring that I would iKwzrd it to Ms. Sea^grxve. Bat i ^srre 
indosed it to yon, as yoa oo^tt and must see ^ I sn iir: 71^^ :2. 
these matters, and leaie all to yoor (factum, is I Icic^ ±ar j^n -v^l 
do what is i^t on all hands. Pzzy acc^c nj a=d zsr v^'f nr:rgr=tst 
loTe and gratitode. 

Not without some sense of relief, probably, wiH the reader 
turn the last leaf of the story of BIake'5 cotinecrior. wfth 
Hayley, honourable thoa^ tt were to each ; especially d> 
Hayley, considering how Uttle nature had fitted him to ««:ter 
into the spiritual meanings of Hakes art. But herein, a.) 
Blake said to Mr. Butts, he that is not with a man is against 
him ; and no amount of friendly zeal to «rv-e, nor even of 
personal liking, could neutralise the blightmcj in?, -cr.ce of 
constant intercourse with one who had an ignorant contitmpt 
for those fine gifts and high aspirations whicii rightly ^'> uvt 
and to fulfil were for Blake the sacred purpose and luffirfnt^ 
delight of life. 

And in the midst of the great Assembly Palamal-jron pray:/!, 

O God, protect me from my friends, that they har^ not y^^^.r 

over me; 
Thou hast given me power to protect myself from my \/\rf/rr*'Af 

enemies 1 

Thus wrote Blake in one of the myotic iy><jV,^,f M tit on, 
produced at this time. And in his Note-fx>ok h<: apos- 
trophises poor Hayley : — 

Thy friendship oft has made my heart to a/.Kc ; 
Do be my enemy for friendship's sake ! 



224 LJFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1*15. 

Doubdess» as sometixnes ensues in die case of far more 
coi^enial minds, many things iriiicli £uled, amid die amenities 
of personal intercourse, to disturb die |pood onderstanding at 
the time, rankled or were fdt resentfully afterwards^ In two 
more of the sarcastic and bitii^ reflections, in qMgrammatic 
form, on those against whom Blake had, or fimded he had, 
cause of offence, interspersed with more serious matter in die 
Note-book, Hayley's name again figures : — 

Mj title as a genias thus is proved, 

Not praised bj Hayley, nor by Flaxman loved. 

And once more : — 

To HayUy. 

You think Foseli is not a great painter? Tm glad: 
This is one of the best compliments he ever had. 

The reading world, too, was fast coming round to a juster 
estimate of its quondam favourite. The Ballads^ though 
illustrated in so poetic a spirit and in a more popular style 
than anything previous from the same hand, were as complete 
a failure — not in pecuniary respects alone, but in commanding 
even a moderate share of public attention — as any in the 
long list of Blake's privately printed books. Hayley had 
not more power to help Blake with a public challenged now 
by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Lamb, won by Crabbe, Campbell, 
Scott, than Blake had by his archaic conceptions, caviare 
to the many, to recall roving readers to an obsolete style of 
unpoetic verse, a tame instead of a rattling one, such as had 
come into vogue. The Life of Romney^ when at last it did 
appear, was quite unnoticed. After the Life of Cowper^ no 
book of Hayley's again won an audience. 

June 1 8th, 1808, is the engraver's date to the duodecimo 
edition of Hayley's Ballads on Animals, These prints are 
unfair examples of Blake's skill and imperfect versions of his 
designs ; they have more than his ordinary hardness of man- 
ner. Tvfo^The Eagle and T/te Lion — are repetitions from the 
quarto. The Dog, T/ie Hermits Dog, and The Horse, are new. 



.«T. 48] LETTERS TO HAYLEY. 22$ 

The last-named is, perhaps, the finest in the series. Even 
though the horse's hind leg be in an impossible position, and 
though there be the usual lack of correct local detail, very 
striking and soulful is the general effect ; especially so is that 
serene, majestic, feminine figure, standing before her terrified 
child and bravely facing the frenzied animal, which, by mere 
spiritual force, she subdues into motionless awe. 




VOL. L 



I 

1 



CHAPTER XXI. 

THE JERUSALEM AND MILTON. 1804. [^T. 47.] 

In two letters to Mr. Butts (p. 185-7) Blake had alluded to 
a 'long poem' descriptive of the 'spiritual acts of his three 
years' slumber on the banks of Ocean.' This was entitled 
yerusalem ; the Emanation of the Giant Albion, 18049 PrinUd 
by W.Blakey South Molton Street; it is a large quarto volume 
of a hundred engraved pages, writing and design ; only one 
side of each leaf being engraved. Most copies are printed 
with plain black and white, some with blue ink, some red ; 
a few are tinted. For a tinted copy the price was twenty 
guineas. 

The Jerusalem is prefaced by an * Address ' to the public, 
in a style to which the public is little accustomed : — 





Sheep. ^ - ^\Goats. 

72? the Public. 

After my three years slumber on the banks of Ocean, I again 
display my giant forms to the public : my former giants and fairies 
having received the highest reward possible ; the . . . and . . • of 
those with whom to be connected is to be ... I cannot doubt that 
this more consolidated and extended work will be ... as kindly re- 
ceived . . . &c. * * » Reader, what you do not approve, &c. ... me 
for this energetic exertion of my talents. 

Although the Jerusalem was conceived, and in great part 
written at Felpham, it was finished in London whilst the 
work of engraving for Hayley was still going on. At page 
38 we find : — 









tvri.6Jt. ^-ytur r^S"^ «;r»--tJt M5Z»—i E^ ab f; '»->f b^ '" '■ 






it*f£ Jkn^lUtn, i»f 6t/pr^ tic. Cfttf uJfK.- Miij,^ X.1-. 

f T-*i«- (7«^j (A'*-^ *i».^- , ^- (i*i*-«.i, y-.j-ia'.-M*' c'/i'^'.y 
'tt/.r >j^ cKojJLf cKtjfit—. -.oil* i»«j /j*^ .» a t/iJi-^y^'it J 



4 

* 



.1 

■ I 
,1 



i 



'-^ /. ... 

1. ..L-^ ff\ t -J 



* iN^a. t I 



" >^"M > ■■ 



iET. 47.] THE JERUSALEM. 227 

In Felpham I saw and heard the visions of Albion ; 

I write in South Molton Street what I both see and hear. 

In regions of humanity, in London's opening streets 

I see the awful Parent Land in light 

Behold I see! 

Verulam ! Canterbury ! venerable parent of men ! 

Generous immortal guardian 1 Golden clad ; for cities 

Are men, fathers of multitudes ; and rivers and mountains 

Are also men : everything is human ! mighty 1 sublime 1 

The poem, since poem we are to call it, is mostly written 

in prose ; occasionally in metrical prose.; more rarely still it 

breaks forth into verse. Here is the author's own account 

of the matter: — 

When this verse was first dictated to me, I considered a monoton- 
ous cadence, like that used by Milton, Shakspeare and all writers of 
Elnglish blank verse, derived from the modem bondage of rhyming, 
to be a necessary and indispensable part of the verse. But I soon 
found that, in the mouth of a true orator, such monotony was not 
only awkward, but as much a bondage as rhyme itself. I, therefore, 
have produced a variety in every line, both in cadence and number 
of syllables. Every word and every letter is studied, and put into 
its place. The terrific numbers are reserved for the terrific parts, the 
mild and gentle for the mild and gentle parts, and the prosaic for 
inferior parts : all are necessary to each other. 

There is little resemblance to the * prophetic books ' of 
earlier date. We hear no longer of the wars, the labours, 
the suflTerings, the laments of Ore, Rintrah, Urizen, or 
Enitharmon. Religious enthusiasm, always a strong element 
in Blake's mental constitution, always deeply tinging his 
imi^native creations, seems, during the time of the lonely 
sea-shore life, to have been kindled into over-mastering 
intensity. * I have written this poem from immediate dicta- 
'tion, twelve, or sometimes twenty or thirty lines at a time ; 
' without premeditation, and even against my will ; thus an 
'immense poem exists which seems to be the labour of a long 
*life, all produced without labour' or study,* he wrote in a 
letter already cited to Mr. Butts. Such a belief in plenary 
inspiration, such a deliberate abjuring of the guidance and 

Q 2 



228 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804. 

• 

control of intellect and will, could have but one result 

* Scattered upon the void in incoherent despair/ to borrow 
his own too appropriate words, are our thoughts whilst the 
eyes wander, hopeless and dispirited, up and down the large 
closely-written pages. The following lines instance in brief 
the devout and earnest spirit in which Blake wrote, the high 
aims he set before him, and afford also a glimpse of the most 
strange and unhappy result, — dark oracles, words presenting 
endless obstacles to all but him who uttered them : — 

Trembling I sit, day and night My friends are astonisht at me: 
Yet they forgive my wand'rings. I rest not from my great task: 
To open the eternal worlds! To open the immortal eyes 
Of man inwards ; into the worlds of thought : into eternity 
Ever expanding in the bosom of God, the human imagination. 
O Saviour I pour upon me thy spirit of meekness and love. 
Annihilate selfhood in mel Be thou all my lifel 
Guide thou my hand, which trembles exceedingly, upon the Rock 

of Ages I 
While I write of the building of Golgonooza and of the tenon 

of Entuthon: 
Of Hand and Hyle, and Coban ; of Kwantok, Peachey, Brereton, 

Slayd, and Hutton : 
Of the terrible sons and daughters of Albion and their generations. 
Scofield, Kox, Kotope and Bowen revolve most mightily upon 
The furnace of Los, before the eastern gate bending their ftxiy. 
They war to destroy the furnaces; to desolate Golgonooza, 
And to devour the sleeping humanity of Albion in rage and hunger. 

There is an ominous sentence in one of the letters to Mr. 
Butts, where, speaking of the Jeruscdem, he says, * the persons 
' and machinery entirely new to the inhabitants of earth (xoM^ 

* of the persons exceptedy The italics are mine, and, alas! to 
what wisp-led flounderings of research might they not lure a 
reckless adventurer. The mixture of the unaccountable with 
the familiar in nomenclature which occurs towards the dose 
of the preceding extract from the Jerusalem is puzzling 
enough in itself; but conjecture attains bewilderment when 
we realize that one of the names, ' Scofield ' (spelt perhaps 
more properly Scholfield, but pronounced no doubt as above), 



.cr. 47-1 THE JERUSALEM. l-v 

was that of the soldier who had brought a charg;'. n' r*:^-..r 
against Blake at Felpham. WTiether the v'in'r L-:^.. t: 
names given were in some way connectec v:ti ::** i-:^ 
would be worth any practicable inquiries. \^'u*n m^ *^x.. 
sider the mystical connection in which this caci^ u 'j'^'A^r^ 
is used, a way seems opened into a more perpiex^ ^^i'^ *. 
morbid analogy existing in Blake's brain thar. ^trxf^v: br- 
other key could unlock. It is a minute point. yt\ ^ bi:>2^. 
ficant and amazing one. Further research discuv^^ f;j*^.i4^ 
references to * Scofield/ for instance, 

<Go thou to Skofield: 

Ask him if he is Bath or if he is Canterbun* : 

Tell him to be no more dubious: demand expliu: ^^jiu 

Tell him I will dash him into shivers where ^x^t a* w.-^^ -^i^ 

I please. Tell him. Hand and Skofield the}* art ixjuju ^f-. '/ «... 

To those I hate: for I can hate al&o as weL a^ KztK- 

Again (not without Jack the Giant Killer tt ii^n'^ . 
*Haik I hear the giants of Albion cry at uignt, 
We smell the blood of the English, we deligir. n. i:,^,* '^^^y .^ 

oar altars; 
The living and the dead shall be ground il o-j' '.'vf.. y.«x«» ;. 
For bread of the sons of Albion, of the glautt Ka;;'. .,?• .>.v .• .' 

SkofieU and Cox are let loose upon the Sax'^Jt i:^.. ^j.^, 

A world in which man is, by his nature, \uk ei««:ffi, */ .,^: 

Again (and woe is the present editor \, . 

"These are the names of Albion's twelve wjut «»,' •/ ,... i,,,... 
daughters: — ' 

(Then follows a long enumeration,- -to ^-.m ,.,.„.. -> , . , 
countries attached) : — 

'Skofield had Ely, Rutland, Cambridge, Jlufitjf,^/;«^( 
Norfolk, Sn&lk, Hertford, Essex, and his etiiaiiati'ih. *, ,,,, ^ 

The first of the three above quotatiouh w.i n>; ...i .ii.» i. .lU^ 
as a warning to Scholfield to be exact in ^vi'lii**^ a.^ hi Uv^ 
place of birth or other belongings, and a.-, \n iIk 'opluu 
words' used by Blake! Cox and O^niiliop* .jit .Snsmtx 
names : can these be the ' Kox ' and ' Ki/iop* ' •>! ilu- |>«*ciii, 
and names in some way connected, like ScIioIh Id'h, wiiii ilu- 



230 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804. 

trial ? Is the wild, wild tale of Schofield exhausted here ? 
Alas no ! At leaf 5 1 of the Jerusalem occurs the design 
which is reproduced opposite. In some, perhaps in dl, 
copies of the ycnisalem^ as a whole, the names inscribed 
above the figures arc not given, but at least three examples 
of water-colour drawings, or highly-coloured reproductions of 
the plate exist, in which the names appear as in our plate 
Who * Vala ' and * Hyle * may personify I do not pretend to 
conjecture, though dim surmises hurtle in the mind, whidi, 
like De Quincey in the catastrophe of the Spanish Nun^ I 
shall keep to myself. These two seem, pretty clearly, to be 
prostrate at the discomfiture of Schofield, who is finally 
retiring fettered into his native element. As a historical 
picture then, Blake felt it his duty to monumentalise this 
design with due inscription. Two of the three hand-coloured 
versions, referred to above, are registered as Nos. 50 and 51 
of the Catalogue in Vol. II., and the third version appeals 
as No. 108 in the Burlington Catalogue. I may note another 
point bearing on the personal grudges shadowed in the 
Jemsalan. In Blake's Public Address (see Vol. II.), he says^ 
' The manner in which my character has been blasted these 
' thirty years, both as an artist and a man, may be seen, 
' particularly in a Sunday paper called the Examiner^ pub- 
' lished in Beaufort's Buildings (we all know that editors of 
'newspapers trouble their heads very little about art and 
' science, and that they are always paid for what they put 
' in upon these ungracious subjects) ; and the manner in 
' which I have rooted out the nest of villains will be seen in 
* a poem concerning my three years Herculean labours at 
' Felpham, which I shall soon publish. Secret calumny and 
'open professions of friendship are common enough all die 
' world over, but have never been so good an occasion of 
poetic imagery.' Thus we arc evidently to look (or sigh in vain) 
for some indication of Blake's wrath against the Examimrx^ 
the vast Jerusalem, It is true that the Examiner persecuted 
him, his publications and exhibition, and that Leigh Hunt 






I 

1 



I* 

I 



Vn: 



I 

i 



^T. 47.] THE JERUSALEM. 23 1 

was prone to tell * good stories ' of him, as we shall see later ; 
and in some MS. doggerel of Blake's we meet with the line, 

*The Examiner whose ^very name is Hunt.' 
But what form can the irate allegory be supposed to take 
in the Jerusalem ? Is it conceivable that that mysterious 
entity or non-entity, * Hand,' whose name occurs sometimes 
in the poem, and of whom an incribed spectrum is there 
given at full length, can be a hieroglyph for Leigh Hunt } 
Alas, what is possible or impossible in such a connection } 

Of the names strung together in the first extract in this 
chapter, many do not occur again throughout the book ; and 
to some, thr perplexed reader fails, to the last, to attach any 
idea. Their owners can hardly be spoken of as shadows, 
for a shadow has a certain definition of form. It may be 
surmised that the Jerusalem is to be regarded as an allegory 
in which the lapse of the human race from a higher spiritual 
state, and its struggles towards a return to such, are the 
main topics. * Jerusalem ' is once spoken of as Liberty ; she 
is also apostrophized as 'mild shade of man,' and must, 
on the whole, be taken to symbolize a milennial state. 

There is sometimes a qpaint felicity in the choice of 

homely, familiar things as symbols, as in this description of 

Golgonooza, the 'spiritual fourfold London' (for so it is 

afterwards called in the Milton) : — 

Lo! 

The stones are pity, and the bricks well-wrought affections, 

Enamelled with love and kindness; and the tiles, engraven gold, 

Labour of mercifiil hands ; the beams and rafters are forgiveness ; 

The mortar and cement of the work, tears of honesty ; the nails 

And the screws and iron traces are well-wrought blandishments, 

And weU-contrived words, firm fixing, never forgotten. 

Always comforting the remembrance : the floors humility ; 

The ceilings devotion; the hearths thanksgiving. 

Far more curious is the following song. It seems to in- 
dicate again that Jerusalem may have with Blake, in a wide 
acceptation, its not unusual significance of ' The True 
Church ; ' seeing that the portion of the poem in which this 
song occurs is addressed *To the Jews,' and that the British 



232 



LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 



[1804. 



nation, nevertheless, seems here as elsewhere in Blake's' 
writings, to be ' the chosen people,' or as one may say, ' the 
Jews r^enerate.' This song is given as an example of what 
Blake could do in his most exacting moods, if indeed be 
really expected any listener other than a ' spectre ' or ' ema-' 
nation ' of his own to hearken to such strains ; combioii^ 
as they do, localities familiar only to paiay-a-Iiiiing with 
conceptions ' pinnacled dim in the intense inane.' The early 
part of the song is included, indeed, not without hesitation, 
lest the reader should laugh at one whose creation was not 
for laughter; but it had better speak as a 
whole for itself, and for its author's wildest 
exigencies. The inmost cell of the poetic 
mind will not find the familiar names in 
such connexion alt<^ther unwelcome ; 
and after the stanza commencing, 

' The Rhine was red with human blood,' 
the verse opens out into reaches of utter- 
ance much nobler, and surely, here and 
there, not unsug^estive of prophecy. 

To the Jews. 
The fields from Islington to Marybone, 

To Primrose Hill and Saint John's Wood, 
Were builded over with pillars of gold ; 

And there Jerusalem's pillars stood. 
Her little ones ran on the fields, 

The Lamb of God among them seen; 
And fair Jerusalem, his Bride, 

Among the litde meadows green. 
Pancras and Kentish Town repose 

Among her golden pillars high, \—^ 

Among her golden arches which 

Shine upon the starry sky. 
The Jew's-Harp House and the Green Man, 

The Ponds where boys to bathe delight, 
The fields of cows by Welling's farm, 

Shine in Jerusalem's pleasant sight. 



m. 47.] 



THE JERUSALEM. 



^le walks apon our meadows green 
The lamb of God walks by her side, 

And every English child is seen. 
Children of Jesus and His Bride : 

FoT^ving trespasses and sins, 

Lest Babylon, with cruel Og, 
With moral and self-righteous law, 

Siould crucify in Satan's synagogue. 

What are those golden builders doing 
Near moumfiil, ever-weeping Paddington 7 

Standing above that mighty ruin 
Wliere Satan the Erst victory won 7 

Where Albion slept beneath the fatal tree, 

And the Druid's golden knife 
Bioted in human gore. 

In ofierings of human life? 

They groaned aloud on London Stone, 

They groaned aloud on Tyburn's brook : 
Albion gave his deadly groan, 
- And all the Atlantic mountains shook. 

AHhou'i spectre from his loins 

Tore fotth in all the pomp of war, 

Satan his name : in flames of fire. 
He stretched his Druid pillars far. 

Jenisalem fell from Lambeth's vale 
Down through Poplar and old Bow, 

Huxwgh Maiden, and across the sea. 
In war and howling, death and woe. 

The Rhine was red with human blood, 

The Danube roU'd a purple tide, 
' On Ae Euphrates Satan stood 

And over Asia stretch'd his pride. 

He wither'd up sweet Zion's hill 
Ynmx every nation of the earth. 

He wither'd up Jerusalem's gates. 
And in a dark land gave her birth. 



Hi 



LIFX <3W WHJJUX slace. 



He mther'd op the huiaaii kxm 

hj ]x*^ of lauTJncff fix sin, 
tili it becune 2 morul vans. 

Bat, O: tnuulncect all wichia: 

The Oirine Vision still was seen. 
Still WM the buiDao (bna divine; 

Wcepiit^ in weak and mortal daj, 
O Jesus! still the fonn was Thine! 

And Thine Ihe human bee; and Thine 
The hnman hands, and feet, and breath 

Entering through the gates of birth 
And paning through the gates of death. 

And, O I Thou Lamb of God 1 whom I 
Slew in my dark, self-righteous pride, 

Art Thou retum'd to Albion's land? 
And a Jerusalem Thy Bride? 

Come to my anns, and never ntore 
Depart, but dwell for ever here; 

Create my spirit to Thy love. 
Subdue my spectre to Thy fear. 

Spectre of Albion t warlike Rend I 
In clouds of blood and ruin roll'd, 

I here reclaim Thee as my own, 
My selfhood; Salan arm'd in gold. 

]s this thy soft family love? 

Thy cruel patriarchal pride? 
Flantiog thy family alone, 

Destroying all the world beside? 

A man's worst enemies are those 
Of his own housu and family; 

Ami he who makes his law a curse 
Uy his own law shall surely die. 

In my exchanges every land 
Shall walk, and mine in eveiy land, 

Mutual, shall build Jerusalem, 
Both heart in htarl and ham) in hand. 



iKT. 47.] THE JERUSALEM. 23S 

Many of Blake's favourite metaphysical and theological 
tenets arc enlarged upon. As, for instance, the antagonism 
of Reason to Faith : — 

And this is the manner of the sons of Albion in their strength : 
They take two contraries, which are called qualities, with which 
Eveiy substance is clothed : they name them Good and EviL 
From these they make an abstract, which is a negation, 
Not only of the substance from which it is derived, — 
A murderer of its own body : but also a murderer 
Of every divine member : — ^it is the Reasoning Power, 
An abstract, objecting^ Power, that negatives everything. 
This is the spectre of man, — ^the holy Reasoning Power ; 
And in its hoUness is closed the abomination of desolation. 

And again : — 

Are not religion and politics the same thing? Brotherhood is 
religioa 

He who would do good to another, roust do it in minute par- 
ticulars: 

General good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer. 

For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized 
particulars, 

And not in generalizing demonstrations of the Rational Power. 

The Infinite alone resides in definite and determinate identity. 

Here is another theme he loved to dwell on : — 

All that has existed in the space of six thousand years 
Permanent and not lost : not lost nor vanished ; and every little 

act, 
Woid, work, and wish that have existed, — all remaining still 
In those churches, ever consuming and ever building by the 

spectres 
Of an the inhabitants of earth waiting to be created ; 
Shadowy to those who dwell not in them — mere possibilities; 
But, to those who enter into them, they seem the only realities. 
For everything exists; and not one sigh, nor smile, nor tear, 
One hair, nor particle of dust — not one can pass away. 



236 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804. 

All things acted on earth are seen in the bright iculptares of 
Los's Hall. And every age renews its powers from these works: 
With every pathetic story possible to happen from Hate or 
Wayward Love. And every sorrow and distress is carved here; 
Every affinity of parents, marriages and friendship's are here 
In all their various combinations; wrought with wondrous art. 
All that can happen to man in his pilgrimage of seventy yean. 

Interesting fragments, surely, if only as being so eminently 
characteristic of the man. A few more such — mere fragments 
— I will add before proceeding to speak of the decorative 
designs with which every page of the original is enriched :-— 

Wherefore hast thou shut me into the winter of human life 
And closed up the sweet regions of youth and virgin innocence 
Where we live forgetting error, not pondering on evfl : 
Among my lambs and brooks of water, among my waibling faiid^ 
Where we delight in innocence before the face of the Lamb^ 
Going in and out before him in his love and sweet affection? 
Vala replied weeping and trembling, hiding in her veiL 

When winter rends the hungry family and the snow £blI1s 
Upon the ways of men, hiding the paths of man and beast, 
Then mourns the wanderer: then he repents his wanderings and 

eyes 
The distant forest ; then the slave groans in the dungeon of stooc^ 
The captive in the mill of the stranger sold for scanty hire : 
They view their former life : they number moments over and over 
Stringing them on their remembrance as on a thread of sonow. 

Imagination [is] the real and eternal world, of which this vegetable 
universe is but a faint shadow : and in which we shall Uye, in ov 
eternal or imaginative bodies, when these vegetable mortal boditf 
are no more. 

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. 
Without forgiveness of sin, I^ve itself is eternal Death. 
O Albion! why didst thou a female will create? 

Negations are not contraries. Contraries mutually exist. 
But negations exist not; exceptions, objections, unbelief. 
Exist not; nor shall they ever be organized for ever and ever. 




mJHRUSALEM. 



M.T, 47] THE JERUSALEM. 237 

If I were pure, never could I taste the sweets of the forgiveness 

of sins. 
If I were holy, I never could behold the tears of love : 
Of Him who loves me in the midst of His anger. 

I heard His voice in my sleep, and His angel in ray dream 
Sajring, Doth Jehovah forgive a debt, only on condition that it 

shall 
Be paid ? Doth He forgive pollution only on condition of purity ? 
That debt is not forgiven 1 that pollution is not forgiven 1 
Such is the forgiveness of the gods ; the moral virtues of the 
Heathen, whose tender mercies are cruelty. But Jehovah's salvation 
Is without money and without price, in the continual forgiveness 

of sins. 

The vegetative universe opens like a flower from the earth's 
centre. 
In which is eternity. It expands in stars to the mundane shell, 
And there it meets Eternity again, both within and without 

What may man be? Who can tell? But what may women be 
To have power over man from cradle to corruptible grave ? 
He who was an Infant, and whose cradle was a manger, 
Knoweth the Infant Sorrow, whence it came and where it goeth. 
And who weave it a cradle of the grass that withereth away. 
This world is all a cradle for the erred, wandering Phantom, 
Rock'd by year, month, day, and hour. And every two moments 
Between, dwells a daughter of Beulah, to feed the human vegetable. 

Rock the cradle, ah me ! of that eternal man ! 

The magic influences of one of the ' daughters of Beulah ' 
are thus described : — 

She creates at her will a little moony night and silence, 
With spaces of sweet gardens and a tent of elegant beauty 
Closed in by sandy deserts, and a night of stars shining ; 
A little tender moon, and hovering angels on the wing. 
And the male gives a time and revolution to her space 
Till the time of love is passed in ever- varying delights: 
For all things exist in the human imagination. 

This last line contains what deserves to be called the 
comer-stone of Blake's philosophy. For his philosophy Aad 






238 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804. 

comer-stone and foundation, and was not miraculously 
suspended in the air, as his readers might sometimes fed 
tempted to believe. Amid all contradictions, incoherences, 
wild assertions, this principle, — that the conceptions of the 
mind are the realities of realities, that the human imagination 
is an eternal world, ' ever expanding in the bosom of God,'— 
shines steadily forth : and to readers of a speculative tun^^- 
who will be at the pains to examine by its light these era 
writings, the chaos will resolve itself into sudstance, thoo^ 
not into form and order. It is needless to tell such thinkert 
that Bishop Berkeley was one on the list of Blake's favourite 
authors. But, with his fervid, dauntless imagination, the 
artist seized hold of the metaphysician*s theory of Idealism, 
and strove to quicken it into a grand, poetic Cosmos. 

There is another 'Song' in the yerusaUnty addressed To 
the Deists, beginning — 

I saw a monk of Charlemaine, 

which follows sobn after the one already quoted To the Jews, 
As it is far less singular and characteristic than its predeces- 
sor, however, the concluding beautiful stanza is all that shall 
here detain us : — 

For a tear is an intellectual thing, 
And a sigh is the sword of an angel king, 
And the bitter groan of a martyr's woe 
Is an arrow from the Almight/s bow. 

Of the pictorial part of the Jerusalem much mi^^t be said 
which would merely be applicable to all Blake's works aljkeu .; 
One point, perhaps, somewhat distinctive about it, is alTv-: 
extreme largeness and decorative character in the style rf^ 
the drawings, which are mostly made up of a few massive 
forms, thrown together on a grand, equal scale. The beauty 
of the drawings varies much, according to the colour Is 
which they arc printed. One copy, possessed by Lord 
Houghton, is so incomparably superior, from this cause, to 
any other I have seen, that no one could know the work 






THB NEW TORK { 

PUBLIC LIBRARTJ 



Till '^- .' V ■ » : 



?-v 



■- 47.1 



THE JERUSALEM. 



239 



properly without having examined this copy. It is printed 
in a warm, reddish brown, the exact colour of a very fine 
phot<^raph ; and the broken blending of the deeper tones 
with the more tender shadows, — all sanded over with a sort 
of golden mist peculiar to Blake's mode of execution, — 
makes still more striking the resemblance to the then un- 
discovered ' handling ' of Nature herself The extreme 
breadth of the forms throughout, when seen through the 
medium of this colour, shows sometimes, united with its 
grandeur, a sauvity of line which is almost Venetian. 

The subjects are vague and mystic as the poem itself. 
Female figures lie among waves full of reflected stars: a 
strange human image, with a swan's head and wings, floats 
on water in a kneeling attitude, and drinks : lovers embrace 
in an open water-lily: an eagte-headed creature sits and 




contemplates the sun : serpent-women are coiled with ser- 
pents : Assyrian-looking, human-visaged bulls are seen yoked 
to the plough or the chariot : rocks swallow or vomit forth 
human forms, or appear to amalgamate with them : angels 
cross each other over wheels of flame : and flames and 
hurrying figures wreathe and wind among the lines. Even 



such ^ght things as these rough intersecting circles, each 
containing some bint of an angel ; even these are made the 
unmistakable exponents of genius. Here and there some 
more familiar theme meets us, — the creation of Eve, or the 



WILLIAM bLAKK. 



Crucifixion ; and then the thread is lost again. The l 
spirit of the designs might seem^wel! symbolized in c 
the 6ncst among tlicm, where we see a triple-headed | 




triple-crowned figure embedded in rocks, from whose 1 
is bursting a string of youths, each in turn bom 1 
others breast in one sinuous throe of mingled life, 1 
life of suns and planet:^ dies and is born, and rushes 1 
around theiit. 

Milton : a Poem in Two Books. TIte Author and i 
\V. Biake, 1804, is a small quarto of forty-five 1 
pages, coloured by hand in the usual manner. In ^ 
fratitispiccc of the yerusalem, a man enters at a dark dMr 
carrying a planet. Would wc might follow him thnwgb 
those dim passages, and see them by bis light ! Nor would 
his company be less serviceable among the mazes of the 
Milton. As this latter work has no perceptible affinity with 
its title, so the designs it contains seem unconnected wilfa 
the text. This principle of independence is carried even faltD 
Hlakc's own portrait of his cottage at Felpham, p. 245, iriddi 
bears no accurate resemblance to the real place. Id beitltyi 
the drawings do not rank with Blake's most notable wocb ; 
the copy at the Museum (as seen by the water-maik of Its 
paper — iSoS) is not one of the earliest, and others mq^, 
probably, be found surpassing it in point of colour. Two of 
the designs chiefly arrest attention ; each of which shows us 
a figure falling as if struck by Heaven ; one bearing the 
inscription Robert, and the other Wiliiatii. They embody 
the sweet remembrance which Blake preserved of his lost 
brother, throughout the dying life of every day. Of tiie two 
ngurcs, Robert, the already dead, is wrapped in the deeper 
sliadow ; but. in otJier rc-ijitcls. ihey are almost the same. 




CRUClFlXIOS.—Fnm JEKVSALBM. 






I 

I 



^T, 47.) THE MILTON. 24I 

The poem is very like the Jerusalem in style : it would 
seem, in fact, to be a sort of continuation ; an idea that is 
borne out by the verses with which its singular Preface 
concludes : — 

And did those feet in ancient time 
Walk upon England's mountain green? 

And was the holy Lamb of God 
On England's pleasant pastures seen ? 

And did the countenance Divine 
Shine forth upon our clouded hills I 

And was Jerusalem builded here 
Among these dark Satanic mills ? 

Bring me my bow of burning gold 1 

Bring me my arrows of desire 1 
Bring me my spear : O clouds, unfold 1 

Bring me my chariot of fire ! 

I will not cease from mental fight. 
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand. 

Till we have built Jerusalem 

In England's green and pleasant land. 

' Would to God that all the lord's people were prophets ! ' — 
Numbers ii. 29. 

The Milton^ as I have hinted, equals its predecessor in 
obscurity ; few are the readers who will ever penetrate be- 
yond the first page or two. These is also the same religious 
fervour, the same high, devout aim : 

I touch the heavens as an instrument to glorify the I/)rd ! 

exclaims Blake in one place ; and the reader is, with im- 
passioned earnestness, besought to give heed unto him in the 
following line, which recurs incessantly : — 

Mark well my words ; they are of your eternal salvation ! 
VOL. I. R 



242 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804. 

About Milton we hear very little, but his name is mentioned 
in the opening invocation : — 

Daughters of Beulah I muses who inspire the poet's song I 
Record the journey of immortal Milton through your realms 
Of terror and mild moony lustre ! 

And afterwards we are told : — 

First Milton saw Albion upon the rock of ages, 

Deadly pale outstretch'd and snowy cold, storm-cover*d : 

A giant form of perfect beauty outstretch'd on the rock 

In solemn death : the Sea of Time and Space thunder'd aloud 

Against the rock which was inwrapp'd with the weeds of death 

Hovering over the cold bosom. In its vortex Milton bent down 

To the bosom of death. What was underneath soon seem'd above, 

A cloudy heaven mingled with stormy seas in loudest ruin. 

But as a wintry globe descends precipitant, through Beulah, bursting 

With thunders loud and terrible, so Milton's shadow fell 

Precipitant, loud thund'ring, into the sea of Time and Space. 

Two other familiar names find pregnant mention. 

God sent his two servants Whitfield and Wesley; were they 

prophets ? 
Or were they idiots and madmen? 'Shew us miracles?' 
Can you have greater miracles than these? Men who devote 
Their life's whole comfort to entire scorn, injury, and death ? 

But the chief parts are played, as before, by shadowy or 
symbolic personages ; of some of whose names, however, a 
definite interpretation here occurs which will be welcome : — 

Los is by mortals named Tirfie, Enitharmon is named Space ; 
But they depict him bald and aged who is in eternal youth, 
All powerful, and his locks flourish like the brow of morning. 
He is the Spirit of Prophecy, the ever apparent Elias, 
Time is the mercy of Eternity ; without Time's swiftness, 
Which is the swiftest of all things, all were eternal torment. 

' The latter part of the first book of Milton* says Mr. 
Swinburne, — to whose guidance the reader, desirous of testing 
his poetic mettle by plunging resolutely through the dark 



^T. 47.) THE MILTON. 243 

mazes of these labyrinthine, spectre-haunted books, is com- 
mended, — * IS a vision of nature, a prophecy of the gathering 
' of the harvest of Time, and treading the winepress of war ; 

* in which harvest and vintage-work all living things have 

* their share for good or evil ' : — 

How red the sons and daughters of Luvah ! here they tread the 

grapes 
Laughing and shouting, dmnk with odours ; many fall o'er wearied ; 
Drowned in the wine is many a youth and maiden ; those around 
Lay them on skins of tigers, of the spotted leopard and the wild ass, 
Till they revive, or bury them in cool grots, making lamentation. 
This Winepress is called War on Earth ; it is the printing-press 
Of Los ; there he lays his words in order above the mortal brain 
As cogs are formed in a wheel to turn the cogs of the adverse wheel. 

All kinds of insects, of roots and seed and creeping things 
— all the armies of disease visible or invisible are there : — 

The slow slug; the grasshopper that sings and laughs and drinks 
(Winter comes, he folds his slender bones without a murmur). 

Wasp and hornet, toad and newt, spider and snake, — 

They throw oflf their gorgeous raiment; they rejoice with loud 

jubilee 
Around the winepresses of Luvah naked and drunk with wine. 
There is the nettle that stings with soft down; and there 
The indignant thistle whose bitterness is bred in his milk. 
Who feeds on contempt of his neighbour ; there all the idle weeds 
That creep around the obscure places show their various limbs 
Naked in all their beauty, dancing round the winepresses. 
But in the winepresses the human grapes sing not nor dance. 
They howl and writhe in shoals of torment, in fierce flames 

consuming ; 

Tortured for the cruel joy and deadly sport of Luvah's sons 
and daughters ; 

They dance around , the dying and they drink the howl and 

groan. 
They catch the shrieks in cups of gold, they hand them one to 

another. 

R 2 



244 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804- 

These are the sports of love, and these the sweet delights of 

amorous play ; 
Tears of the grape, the death-sweet of the cluster, the last sigh 
Of the mild youth who listens to the luring songs of Luvah. 

With the following sweet reminiscence of life at Felpham, 
which occurs in the Second Book of Milton, and with the 
quaint and pretty lines Apropos of which Blake introduces the 
idealized view of his cottage, given at the end of this chapter, 
let these gleanings from the * Prophetic Books ' conclude. 

Thou hearest the nightingale begin the song of spring ; 
The lark, sitting upon his earthy bed, just as the mom 
Appears, listens silent ; then, springing from the waving corn-field, 

loud 
He leads the choir of day : trill — trill — trill — trill — 
Mounting upon the wings of light into the great expanse. 
Re-echoing against the lovely blue and shining heavenly shelL 
His little throat labours with inspiration; every feather 
On throat, and breast, and wing, vibrates with the effluence divine. 
All nature listens to him silent; and the awful Sun 
Stands still upon the mountains, looking on this little bird 
With eyes of soft humility, and wonder, love, and awe. 
Then loud, from their green covert, all the birds begin their 

song,— . 
The thrush, the linnet and the goldfinch, robin and the wren. 
Awake the sun from his sweet reverie upon the mountains; 
The nightingale again essays his song, and through the day 
And through the night warbles luxuriant; every bird of song^ 
Attending his loud harmony with admiration and love. 

(This is a vision of the lamentation of Beulah over Ololon.) 

Thou perceivest the flowers put forth their precious odours, 

And none can tell how from so small a centre come such sweets, 

Forgetting that within that centre Eternity expands 

Its ever-during doors that Og and Anak fiercely guard. 

First, ere the morning breaks, joy opens in the flowery bosoms, 

Joy even to tears, which the sun, rising, dries; first the wild 

thyme 
And meadow-sweet, downy and soft, waving among the reeds, 



^T. 47.] 



THE MILTON. 



^45 



Light springing on the air, lead the sweet dance ; they wake 
The honeysuckle sleeping on the oak, the flaunting beauty 
Revels along upon the wind; the white thorn, lovely May, 
Opens her many lovely eyes; listening, the rose still sleeps. 
None dare to wake her: soon she bursts her crimson-curtained 

bed 
And comes forth in the majesty of beauty ; every flower, 
The pink, the jasmine, the wallflower, the carnation. 
The jonquil, the mild lily opes her heavens ; every tree 
And flower and herb soon fill the air with an innumerable dance, 
Yet all in order sweet and lovely; men are sick with love. 

Such is a vision of the lamentation of Beulah over Ololon. 

* When Los joined with me he took me in his fiery whirlwind ; 
My vegetated portion was hurried from I^mbeth's shades; 

He set me down in Felpham's vale, and prepared a beautiful 
Cottage for me, that, in three years, I might write all these 

visions ; 
To display Nature's cruel holiness ; the deceits of Natural Religion. 
Walking in my cottage garden, sudden I beheld 
The virgin Ololon, and address'd her as a daughter of Beulah : — 

* Virgin of Providence I fear not to enter into my cottage ! ' 




CHAPTER XXII. 

A KEEN EBiPLOYER. 1805—7. [xr. 48-'So-l 

To Hayley succeeded a patron who will give even less 
pecuniary help, but a more efficient introduction to the 
public This was R. H. Cromek, hitherto an engraver, now' 
turning print-jobber and book-maker, who, at this period, 
discovered Blake. The slighted artist sorely needed a dis- 
coverer; he and his wife being now, according to Cromek, 
' reduced so low as to be obliged to live on half a guinea a 
week.* * Living ' must here mean board ; for weekly rent 
alone would amount to that sum. Thus interpreted, the 
statement \^ not an exaggerated one of Blake's straitened 
resources at this and other periods of his life. 

During 1804 to 1805 had been produced that series of 
Drawings illustrative of Blair's Grave, by which, from the 
accident of their having been afterwards really published and 
pushed in the regular way, Blake is most widely known — 
known at all, I may say — to the public at large. It is the 
only volume, with his name on its title-page, which is not 
' scarce.* These drawings Blake had intended engraving and 
publishing himself They were seen, however, admired, and 
purchased, by engraver Cromek — ' engraver, printseller, pub- 
lisher, author — and Yorkshireman.' He gave, according to 
Smith, * the insignificant sum of one guinea each for them,' 
but, in fact, about a guinea and a half; *on the express 
understanding,* adds Smith, ' that the artist was to engrave 



iBT. 4»— so.] A KEEN EMPLOYER. 247 

them for a projected edition of The Grave' This, involving 
a far more considerable remuneration, would have made the 
total payment for the designs tolerably adequate. 

Robert Hartley Cromek, a native of Hull, now a man of 
five and thirty, had been a pupil of Bartolozzi, and, during 
the past ten years, had engraved, with credit, many book- 
plates after Stothard. He was one in the numerous band 
whom that graceful artist's active fingers kept employed ; for, 
as may well be believed, it is vastly quicker work the making 
of designs than the engraving them. Among Cromek's 
doing are some of the plates to an edition of The Spectator 
(1803), to 15" Roveray's edition of Pope (1&04), and one in 
an early edition of Rogers' Pleasures of Metnory. With a 
nervous temperament and an indifferent constitution the 
painful confinement of his original profession ill agreed. An 
active, scheming disposition, combined with some taste for 
literature and superficial acquaintance with it, tempted him 
to exchange, as many second-rate engravers have done, the 
steady drudgery of engraving for the more profitable, though 
speculative, trade of print-publisher and dealer, or farmer of 
the talents of others. He had little or no capital. This 
edition of Blair's Grave, with illustrations by Blake, was his 
first venture. And twenty guineas for twelve of the most, 
original designs of the century, and not unintelligible designs, 
though from Blake's mystic hand, was no bad beginning. 
Even in this safe investment, however, the tasteful Yorkshire- 
man showed bolder discernment of unvalued genius than the 
stolid trade ever hazarded. 

In 1805 the Prospectus was issued ; from which it appears, 
it was then intended for Blake to engrave the illustrations. 
The Prospectus was helped by an elaborate opinion in favour 
of the Designs from Fuseli's friendly pen, whose word then 
carried almost judicial weight. As collateral guarantee was 
added an authorized statement of their cordial approval by 
President West, and ten other academicians ; among them 
Cosway, Flaxman, Lawrence, Nollekens, Stothard. These 



248 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [!&>$— 1807. 

were credentials by which the practical Cromek set some 
store. He had submitted the drawings to those academic 
dons, disinterestedly anxious to be assured 'how far he was 
' warranted in calling the attention of connoisseurs to what 
'he himself imagined to be a high and original effort of 
' genius ; ' not, of course, with any eye to the value of sudi 
testimonials with the public Accomplished Thomas Hope 
— Anastasius Hope — and virtuoso Mr. Locke, of Norbury, 
also 'pledged their character as connoisseurs' (according 
to Malkin) in their favour, ' by approving and patronizii^ 
these designs.' 

Blake was looking forward ' with anxious delight ' to the 
congenial task of engraving his ' Inventions,' and did engrave 
one or two. A print in his peculiar, vigorous manner, from 
his favourite design — Deaths Door — I have seen. But shrewd 
Cromek's eye had been educated in the school of graceful 
Bartolozzi. By him, Blake's old-fashioned, austere style was 
quickly perceived to be not in unison with public taste, and 
far less likely to draw subscribers than a lucid version of his 
wild grandeur by some competent hand. To the initiated, 
an artist's rendering of his own conception — that, say, of an 
Albert Diirer, a Lucas von Leyden, a H<^arth — ^has always 
the infinitely superior claim, in its first-hand vigour, fresh- 
ness, and air as of an original. Such engravings are^ in fact, 
originals. 

Cromek selected for his purpose Lewis Schiavonetti, a 
native of Bassano, in Venetia, who, on coming to England, 
had put himself under Bartolozzi, Cromek's master. In that 
studio, probably, the two became acquainted. Schiavonetti 
rose above all Bartolozzi's other pupils ; above the master too ; 
developing an individual style, which united grandeur with 
grace, boldness, draughtsman-like power, and intelligence 
with executive delidacy and finish. It was a happy choice of 
engraver on Cromek's part, and with his views. The large 
outlay requisite to secure the Italian's service was pretty sure 
of ultimate return, with good interest. Cromek's sagacity' 



iBT. 4S— 50.] A KEEN EMPLOYER. 249 

cannot, indeed, be denied. It resulted in the wedding of 
remarkable powers of engraving to high design, worthy 
of them. In his brief course, Schiavonetti was generally 
most unfortunate in having subjects to engrave not deserving 
of his skill. A previous engraving from Michael Angelo's 
noble Cartoon of Pisa, the plates to The Grave, and a sub- 
sequent etching from Stothard's Canterbury Pilgrims, are the 
only examples of a fitly-directed exercise of his powers. By 
them alone can they now be estimated. On another ground, 
Cromek's decision can hardly be blamed. Schiavonetti 
introduced Blake's designs to a wider public than himself 
could ever have done. 

On the other hand, the purchaser of the designs having 
made a certain engagement, it was not open to him, in 
honour or common honesty, because it was an unwritten one, 
to depart from it for his own advantage, without Blake's 
consent, or without making compensation to the artist for his 
pecuniary loss. In point of fact, Cromek jockeyed Blake 
out of his copyright. And Blake was naturally mortified 
and incensed at the loss of profitable and happy employ- 
ment to which the new arrangement sentenced him, and at 
becoming a mere conduit for the enrichment of two fellow- 
engravers. 

Allan Cunningham, who also had had relations with Cromek, 
and had kindly reasons for judging him leniently, tells us the 
speculator, in paying Blake twenty guineas for the twelve 
designs, gave a price which, ' though small, was more than 
what he usually received for such productions.' This is what 
Cromek, or his widow, told Cunningham ; but the statement 
is incorrect. True, Blake's gains were always small. A 
guinea to a guinea and a half each was his price for the 
water-colour drawings sold to Mr. Butts and others. But 
then he did not lose his copyright ; he was always at liberty 
to make duplicates and to engrave them. . Clearly, he did 
make more by those ; more, also, by the Songs of Innocence 
and of Experience, and the other series of designs which he 



2SO LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1805— 1807. 

kept in his own hands, and sold engraved copies of, for sums 
varying from five to twenty guineas. 

While Schiavonetti was at work on his etchings from the 
Designs to Blair, hungry Cromek would call every now and 
then on Blake, to see wliat he was doing. One day, he 
caught sight of a pencil drawing from a hitherto virgin 
subject — ^the Procession of Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgritns; 
Chaucer being a poet read by fewer then than now. Cromek 
' appeared highly delighted ' with Blake's sketch, says Smith, 
as being an original treatment of an original subject. In 
point of fact, he wanted to secure a finished drawing from it, 
for the purpose of having it engraved, and without employing 
Blake, just as he had served him over the Desig^ns to the 
The Grave ; as I learn from other sources, on sifting the 
matter. However, Blake was not to be taken in a second time. 
Negotiations on that basis failed ; but, as Blake understood 
the matter, he received a commission, tacit or express, from 
Cromek, to execute the design. The Yorkshireman, never- 
theless, went to Stothard, suggested the subject as a novelty, 
and, in fine, commissioned of that artist an oil-picture for 
sixty guineas, to be engraved by Bromley ; for whom Schia- 
vonetti was eventually substituted. Whether Stothard knew 
of Blake's design I can hardly pronounce ; possibly not ; 
certainly he did not, I should say, of Cromek's previous 
overtures to Blake, nor of the fact that a subscription paper 
for an engraving of the Canterbury Pilgrims had been 
circulated by Blake's friends. 

This was in 1806, two years before publication of The Grave. 
One day, while Stothard was painting his picture, Blake 
called on his friend and saw it, ignorant, evidently, that it was 
to supersede his own, and that slippery Cromek was at the 
bottom of its having existed at all ; nay, was making it his 
next speculation with the public. For the two artists to 
design from the same poets and subjects was no new thing, 
as a comparison of their works will show. Take, for instance, 
the Night TItoughts of Young, illustrated by Blake in 1797, by 



«T 



?^. »t^ ^ 



JL. jSZJL .TvUm C JL^lZ'-A»r3**S:fc* 7a».^.*. *«or«*V'' ? 







i ir.r"ri:a^-::i: xOiur^ 



grudge vas jr^: ticsl iar is.Tr^ mrmri m n z:tz spz-nrc 
his designs t? Kpr- 'ndynam;, t:^ x^: 
towards Stodarc. louni xe tsdc i: 122*? 
Cromek's m e ii-'ia fr? ;t^^ t^tx Tir>yr ur ixs 



Chaucer. My awz Tifiir^jjr. frnn il rie r~iaai=i zzir^. 
with Flaxman's ocxrjac t^i.. rus: fcnnurf ? sxnz r:^ r^r 1 
wilful one, in hrrng r^As* 2 psrrr r: e: asr-s.-r^ 5 \t pcrir; 
by himself, on a SGbf'Scr prrrjmsi. j 13 



^A 



it is, indeed, that the geserU =3zigiLs:iuir if jxs 3 



has a suspicious rcscmbLarcs r; Frsi:!^ 5. Tus. i e*%^ ^ — =- - 
be due to hints given by tie •:rscr::pi^izs r:-i«=TT=r. 

By May 1807 Stothird? Cibcec ?\mr* tj^ -,:•'..-- 
exhibited ; and, what with :-5 z^^srz zlc-js laii rc^riir^ izii 
what with Croineksjud:ck;i5 cc~"X. irr¥ sev-sril rnmrarc 
gazers and admirers. Ho2^}Qer. ar ne ssd :c' Mi- ■•Tsci i;: 
encomiastic descriptive 'Letter' z^ C-inberlirl t> — rri ::t 
Prince Hoare's-4r/w/, and turned t: ^xc zzzz^znz ir '— r-.*-, 5 
Prospectus for the engraving. Ccr.ncLsaeur. ^iicmr*-ii.Llr- 
Carey, — afterwards as •Ridoln.* Ecrys p.ineg3.Tifi. — il-*-i-.5 
too happy to get his verbiage set up in r.-pe free :: i^-it, 
penned a still longer Critical DcscriptLn the foil :t 
which wily Cromek had well crculated a^ a 
subscribers. 

During this May was scribbled a letter irczr. Croir.ck to 
Blake, bearing incidentally on this matter, b-t mainly on the 
designs to The Grave, and the differences which had arisen 
between the two. The letter sets forcibly before us Blake's 



252 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1805—1807 

circumstances at the time ; is an example of the spurns he 
from the unworthy took ; and throws a flood of light on 
the character of the writer. It subsequently fell into Allan 
Cunningham's hands, thence into his son, Mr. Peter Cunning- 
ham's, and has been printed in the Gentlematis Magazitu 
(Feb. 1852):— 

'64, Newman Street, May^ 1807. 
*SiR, 

* I rec"*, not with' great surprise, your letter demanding 
' four guineas for the sketched vignette ded** to the Queen. I have 

* returned the drawing with this note, and I will briefly state my 
' reasons for so doing. In the first place, I do not think it merits the 

* price you affix to it, under any circumstances. In the next place, I 

* never had the remotest suspicion that you** for a moment entertain 

* the idea of writing me to supply money to create an honour in w** I 

* cannot possibly participate. The Queen allowed yau^ not me^ to 
' dedicate the work to her! The honour w** have been yours exdus' ; 
' but that you might not be deprived of any advantage likely to con- 

* tribute to your reputation, I was willing to pay Mr. Schiavonetti ten 

* guineas for etching a plate from the drawing in question. 

' Another reason for returning the sketch is, that I am do without 
' //, having already engaged to give a greater number of etchings than 

* the price of the book will warrant ; and I neither have, nor ever had, 

* any encouragement from you to place you before the public in a 
' more favourable point of view than that which I have already chosen. 

* You charge me w^ imposing upon you. Upon my honour I have no 
' recollection of anything of the kind. If the world and I were to 
' settle accounts to-morrow, I do assure you the balance w^ be con- 
' siderably in my favour. In this respect I am more sinned against 
' than sinning ; but if I cannot recollect any instances wherein I have 

* imposed upon y^^ several present themselves in w** I have imposed 

* upon myself. Take two or three that press upon me. 

* When I first called on you, I found you without reputation ; I 

* imposed on myself the labour, and an herculean one it has been, to 
' create and establish a reputation for you. I say the labour was her- 

* culean, because I had not only to contend with, but I had to battle 

* with a man who had predetermined not to be served. What public 

* reputation you have, the reputation of eccentricity excepted, I have 
^ acquired for you ; and I can honestly and conscientiously assert, 

* that if you had laboured through life for yourself as zealously and as 



iET. 4S— SO.) A KEEN EMPLOYER. 253 

earnestly as I have done for you, your reputation as an artist w'^ not 
only have been enviable, but it would have put it out of the power 
of an individual as obscure as myself either to add to or take from 
it I also imposed on myself ^ when I believed what you so often have 
told me, that your works were equal, nay superior, to a Raphael, or to 
a Michael Angelo ! Unfortunately for me as a publisher, the public 
awoke me from this state of stupor, this mental delusion. That 
public is willing to give you credit for what real talent is to be found 
in your productions, and for no more, 

* / have imposed on myself yet more grossly in believing you to be 
one altogether abstracted from this world, holding converse with the 
world of spirits ! simple, unoffending, a combination of the serpent 
and the dove, I really blush when I reflect how I have been cheated 
in this respect The most effectual way of benefiting a designer 
whose aim is general patronage, is to bring his designs before the 
public, through the medium of engraving. Your drawings have had 
the good fortune to be engraved by one of the first artists in Europe, 
and the specimens already shown have already produced you orders 
that I verily believe you otherwise w** not have rec**. Herein I have 
been gratified ; for I was determined to bring you food as well as 
reputation, though, from your late conduct, I have some reason to 
embrace your wild opinion, tliat to manage genius, and to cause it 
to produce good things, it is absolutely necessary to starve it ; in- 
deed, this opinion is considerably heightened by the recollection 
tfiat your best work, the illustrations of The Grave, was produced 
when you and Mrs. Blake were reduced so low as to be obliged to 
Ihre on half a guinea a week ! 

' Befoe I conclude this letter, it will be necessary to remark, when 
I gave yoa the order for the drawings from the poem of The 
Graviy I paid you for them more than I could then afibrd ; more 
in proportion than you were in the habit of receiving, and what you 
were perfectly satisfied with ; though, I must do you the justice to 
coofesSy nrach less than I think is their real value. Perhaps you have 
friends and admirers who can appreciate their merit and worth as 
mudi as I do. I am decidedly of opinion that the twelve for The 
Grate should sell at the least for sixty guineas. If you can meet 
with any gentleman who will give you this sum for them, I will 
ddiver than into his hands on the publication of the poem. I ^-ill 
deduct the twenty guineas I have paid you from that sum, and the 
remainder fiirtj ditto shall be at your disposaL 

*■ I win not detain yoa more than one minute. Why d:A you so 



254 ^IFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1805— 1807. 

^furiously rag^ at the success of the little picture of The Pilgrim' 
' agef Three thousand people have now i^;s Hand have qpprcved 
^ of it. Believe me, yours is **M^ voice of one crying in the 

* " wilderness 1 " 

' You say the subject is low, and contemptibly treated For his ex- 
< cellent mode of treating the subject, the poet has been admired fi>r 
' the last 400 years ; the poor painter has not yet the advantage of 
' antiquity on his side, therefore, w)" some people, an apology may be 
'necessary for him. The conclusion of one of Squire Simldn's 
' letters to his mother in the Bath Guide will afford one* He speab 

* greatly to the purpose : — 

< " I very well know, 
' Both my subject and verse is exceedingly low ; 
' But if any great critic finds fault with my letter, 
* He has nothing to do but to send you a better^ 

'With much respect for your talents, 

'I remain, Sir, 

'Your real friend and well-wisher, 

*R. H. Cromek.' 

It is one thing to read such a letter fifty years after it was 
written, though one can hardly do so without indignation ; 
another to have had to receive and digest its low affronts. A 
poet had need have a world of visions to retire to when 
exposed to these 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.' 
Blake might well get irascible, might well g^ve vent to his 
contempt and scorn in epigrams such as the following, which 
I find in that same MS. note-book wherein poor Haylcy 
figures so ignominiously : — 

Cromek loves artists as he loves his meat; 
He loves the art, but 'tis the art to cheat ! 

And again : — 

A petty sneaking knave I knew ; 
Oh, Mr. Cromek! how do you do? 

Here is a taste of ' Cromek's opinions put into rhyme.* 



ET. 48— so-] A KEEN EMPLOYER. 255 

I always take my judgments from a fool, 
Because his judgment is so very cool ; 
Not prejudiced by feelings great and small. 
Amiable state 1 he cannot feel at all. 

And yet, is not a needy publisher to make that profit out 
of a needy painter he cannot for himself? May not the 
purchaser of twelve drawings at twenty pounds do what he 
likes with his own ? That Cromek had no answer to the 
charge of ' imposition/ and of having tricked Blake, is obvious 
from his preferring to open up irrelevant questions : he 
defends by attacking. The artist's discouragement of 
Cromek's herculean labours in behalf of Blake's fame, refers 
to his infatuated preference for being his own engraver, ac- 
cording to agreement. Through Cromek's reluctance to part 
with four guineas, the Blair lost a crowning grace in the 
vignette or setting, as in Blake's hands it would have been, of 
the Dedication to tJie Queen. 

Poor Blake, in asking four guineas instead of one, for a 
single sketch, had evidently felt entitled to some insignificant 
atonement for previous under-pay. Perhaps, on the hint at 
the close of Cromek's letter — 

'He has nothing to do but to send you a better,' 

the indignant painter acted in executing, hereafter, his 
projected 'fresco' from the Canterbury Pilgrimage, and 
exhibiting and engraving it. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

GLEAMS OF PATRONAGE, 1806-1808.* [iET. 49—51.] 

Another 'discoverer' of Blake's singular and ignored 
genius was Dr. Malkin, Head-Master of Bury Grammar 
School, to whose account of the artist's early years we were 
indebted at the outset. It was, probably, after the return 
from Felpham, and through Cromek, they were made known 
to one another. Dr. Malkin was the author of various now 
all but forgotten works, — Essays on Subjects connected with 
Civilization^ 1795 : Scoiery^ Antiquities, and Biography of 
South Wales, 1804, which was his most popular effort, reach- 
ing, in 1807, to a second edition : also, Almafiide and Hanut 
a Tragedy, 1804. His name may likewise be found to a 
current revision of Smollett's Translation of GU Bias, the 
earlier editions of which contain illustrations by Smirke. 

Blake designed, and originally engraved, the ' ornamental 
device ' to the frontispiece for Malkin's Father* s Memoirs oj 
his Child, but it was erased before the appearance of the 
work, and the same design re-engraved by Cromek. The 
book was published February, 1806; in which month, by 
the way, died Barry, whom Blake knew and admired. The 
frontispiece consists of a portrait of the precocious infant, 
when two years old, from a miniature by Page, surrounded 
by an emblematic design of great beauty. An Angel is 
conducting the child heavenward ; he takes leave, with consol- 
\x\^ gesture, of his kneeling mother, who, in a half-resigned, 



iirr. 49— 5".] GLEAMS OF PATRONAGE. 257 

half-deprecating attitude, stretches towards him her wistful, 
unavailing arms, from the edge of a cliff — ^typifying Earth's 
verge. It is in a rambling Introductory Letter to Johnes of 
Hafod, translator of Froissart, the account in question of the 
designer of the frontispiece is given, with extracts from his 
Poems : a well-meant, if not very successful, attempt of the 
kindly pedagogue to serve the ' untutored proficient,* as he 
terms Blake. The poor little defunct prodigy who is the 
subject of the Memoir, and who died in 1802, after little 
more than a six years' lease of life, was not only an expert 
linguist, a general reader, something of a poet, the historian 
and topographer of an imaginary kingdom, of which he drew 
an ' accurate map ; ' but was also a designer, producing 

* copies from some of Raphael's heads so much in unison 
'with the style and sentiment of the originals, as induced 
' our late excellent and ingenious friend, Mr. Banks, the 

* sculptor, to predict, " that if he were to pursue the arts as 
' a profession, he would one day rank among the more dis- 

* tinguished of their votaries." * 

He was also an original inventor of ' little landscapes ; ac- 

* customed to cut every piece of waste paper within his reach 
' into squares ' an inch or two in size, and to fill them with 
' temples, bridges, trees, broken ground, or any other fanciful 
' and picturesque materials which suggested themselves to his 
' imagination.' The father gives tracings from six of these as 

* specimens of his talent in composition ; ' himself descrying 
a * decisive idea attached to each,' and that ' the buildings 
are placed firm on the ground ; ' not to mention a taste and 
variety, the ' result of a mind gifted with just feeling and 
fertile resources.' 

The * testimony of Mr. Blake ' is added, who, being a man 
of imagination, can decipher more in these pre-Claudite jot- 
tings of pillar and post, arch and scrub, than his humble 
biographer can. What he says is, in its general tenor, inter- 
esting and true enough. But surely Mr. Blake saw double 
on the occasion, — for his sincerity never admits of doubt. 

VOL. I. S 



258 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1806—1808. 

' They are all/ writes he, * firm determinate outline, or iden- 
' tical form. Had the hand which executed these little ideas 
' been that of a plagiary, who works only from the memory, 

* we should have seen blots, called masses,' (Blake is g^irding 
at his own opposites in Art) ' blots without form, and there- 

* fore without meaning. These blots of light and dark, as 
' being the result of labour, are always clumsy and indefinite; 
' the effect of rubbing out and putting in ; like the progress 
' of a blind man, or one in the dark, who feels his way but 

* does not see it. These are not so. Even the copy from 

* Raphael's cartoon of St. Paul Preaching' (from Dorigny s 
' plate of the same) * is a firm, determinate outline, struck at 

* once, as Protogenes struck his line, when he went to make 
' himself known to Apelles. The map of Allestone has the 
' same character of the firm and determinate: All his efforts 
' prove this little boy to have had that greatest of blessings, 
' a strong imagination, a clear idea, and a determinate vision 
' of things in his own mind.' 

To this date belongs a vigorous letter, discovered by Mr. 
Swinburne in the Monthly Review for July, ist, 1806, our old 
friend Phillips being then editor, in which Blake returns some 
of Fuseli's good offices by defending his picture of Count 
Ugolino against an adverse critic : — 

To tJie Editor of the Monthly Magazine. . 

Sir, 

My indignation was exceedingly moved at reading a criti- 
cism in BeWs Weekly Messenger (25th May), on the picture of 
Count Ugolino, by Mr. Fuseli, in the Royal Academy Exhibition ; 
and your magazine being as extensive in its circulation as that paper, 
and as it also must, from its nature, be more permanent, I take the 
advantageous opportunity to counteract the widely diffused malice 
which has for many years, under the pretence of admiration of the 
arts, been assiduously sown and planted among the English public 
against true art, such as it existed in the days of Michael Angelo 
and Raphael. Under the pretence of fair criticism and candour 
the most wretched taste ever produced has been upheld for many, 
very ma.iy years : but now, I say, now, its end has come. Such an 



/rr. 49—5'] GLEAMS OF PATRONAGE. 259 

artist as Fuseli is invulnerable ; he needs not my defence : but I 
should be ashamed not to set my hand and shoulder, and whole 
strength, against those wretches who, under pretence of criticism, 
use the dagger and the poison. 

My criticism on this picture is as follows : — Mr. Fuseli' s Count 
Ugolino is the father of sons of feeling and dignity, who would not 
sit looking in their parent's face in the moments of his agony, but 
would rather retire and die in secret, while they suffer him to indulge 
his passionate and innocent grief, his innocent and venerable mad- 
ness and insanity and fury and whatever paltry, cold-hearted critics 
cannot, because they dare not, look upon. Fuseli's Count Ugolino 
is a man of wonder and admiration, of resentment against man and 
devil, and of humiliation before God ; prayer and parental a£fection 
fill the figure from head to foot The child in his arms, whether 
boy or girl signifies not (but the critic must be a fool who has not 
read Dante, and who does not know a boy from a girl), I say, the 
child is as beautifidly drawn as it is coloured— in both, inimitable; 
and the effect of the whole is truly sublime, on account of that very 
colouring which our critic calls black and heavy. The German-flute 
colour, which was used by the Flemings (they call it burnt bone) has 
[so ?] possessed the eye of certain connoisseurs, that they cannot see 
appropriate colouring, and are blind to the gloom of a real terror. 

The taste of English amateurs has been too much formed upon 
pictures imported from Flanders and Holland; consequently our 
countrymen are easily brow-beat on the subject of painting; and 
hence it is so common to hear a man say, ' I am no judge of pic- 
tures ; ' but, oh Englishmen ! know that every man ought to be a 
judge of pictures, and every man is so who has not been connois- 
seured out of his senses. 

A gentleman' who visited me the other day said, * I am very much 
surprised at the dislike which some connoisseurs show on viewing 
the pictures of Mr. Fuseli; but the truth is, he is a hundred 
years beyond the present generation.' Though I am startled at 
such an assertion, I hope the contemporary taste will shorten the 
hundred years into as many hours ; for I am sure that any person 
consulting his own reputation, or the reputation of his country, 
will refrain from disgracing either by such ill-judged criticisms in 
future. 

Yours, 

Wm. Blake. 



26o LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1806—1808. 

Cromek, in the letter of May, 1807, quoted in the previous 
chapter, tells Blake incidentally, * The specimens ' (in proof) 
' of Schiavonetti's etchings have already produced you orders 
' that, I verily believe, you would not otherwise have received.' 
One commission, the credit whereof Cromek may here be 
assuming to himself, was that which occupied Blake durii^ 
1807 for the Countess of Egremont, to whom he had abieady 
been made known by Hayley. It was for a repetition, or en- 
largement rather, of the most elaborate of the Blair drawings 
— The Last Judgment In reality, however, the commission 
was obtained through his staunch friend, Ozias Humphrey, 
the miniature painter. A letter to him from Blake (i8th 
February, 1808), descriptive of this composition, is, in its 
commencement, applicable to that in the Blair, but shows 
the new picture to have contained many more figures and 
considerable variations from the previous treatment. Smith 
got hold of this letter from Upcott, Humphrey's godson, or, 
as some say, son in a less spiritual sense. The original is 
now in the possession of Mr. Anderdon, and, thanks, to his 
courtesy, has been here followed ; Smith's version being a 
slightly inaccurate one. To those familiar with Blake's 
works, a very extraordinary and imaginative composition is 
indicated. 

To Ozias Humphrey^ Esq, 

The design of The Last yudgment^ which I have completed, by 
your recommendation, for the Countess of Egremont, it is necessary 
to give some account of; and its various parts ought to be described, 
for the accommodation of those who give it the honour of their 
attention. 

Christ seated on the Throne of Judgment : before His feet and 
around Him the Heavens, in clouds, are rolling like a scroll, ready to 
be consumed in the fires of Angels who descend with the four 
trumpets sounding to the four winds. 

Beneath, the earth is convulsed with the labours of the Resunec- 
tion. In the caverns of the earth is the Dragon with seven heads 
and ten horns, chained by two Angels ; and above his cavern on the 
earth's surface, is the Harlot, seized and bound by two Angels with 



MT, 49—51.] GLEAMS OF PATRONAGE. 261 

chains, while her palaces are falling into ruins, and her counsellors 
and warriors are descending into the abyss, in wailing and despair. 

Hell opens beneath the Harlot's seat on the left hand, into which 
the wicked are descending. 

The right hand of the design is appropriated to the Resurrection 
of the Just : the left hand of the design is appropriated to the 
Resurrection and Fall of the Wicked. 

Immediately before the Throne of Christ are Adam and Eve, 
kneeling in humiliation, as representatives of the whole human 
race ; Abraham and Moses kneel on each side beneath them ; from 
the cloud on which Eve kneels, is seen Satan, wound round by the 
Serpent, and falling headlong ; the Pharisees appear on the left hand 
pleading their own Righteousness before the Throne of Christ and 
before the Book of Death, which is opened on clouds by two Angels ; 
many groups of figures are falling fi-om before the throne, and from 
the sea of fire which flows before the steps of the throne ; on which 
are seen the seven Lamps of the Almighty, burning before the 
throne. Many figures, chained and bound together, and in various 
attitudes of despair and horror, fall through the air, and some are 
scourged by Spirits with flames of fire into the abyss of Hell which 
opens beneath, on the left hand of the Harlot's seat ; where others 
are howling and descending into the flames, and in the act of drag- 
ging each other into Hell, and of contending and fighting with each 
other on the brink of perdition. 

Before the Throne of Christ on the right hand, the Just, in humili- 
ation and in exultation, rise through the air with their children and 
families ; some of whom are bowing before the Book of Life, which 
is opened on clouds by two Angels : many groups arise in exultation ; 
among them is a figure crowned with stars, and the moon beneath 
her feet, with six infants around her, — she represents the Christian 
Church. Green hills appear beneath with the graves of the blessed, 
whidi are seen bursting with their births of immortality ; parents and 
children, wives and husbands, embrace and arise together, and in 
exulting attitudes tell each other that the New Jerusalem is ready to 
descend upon earth ; they arise upon the air rejoicing ; others, newly 
awaked from the grave, stand upon the earth embracing and shout- 
ing to the Lamb, who cometh in the clouds with power and great 
l^ory. 

The whole upper part of the design is a view of Heaven opened, 
around the Throne of Christ. In the clouds, which roll away, are 
the four living creatures filled with eyes, attended by seven Angels 



262 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1806- 180S. 

with seven vials of the wrath of God, and above these, seven Angels 
with the seven trumpets ; these compose the cloud, which, by its 
rolling away, displays the opening seats of the Blessed ; on the right 
and the left of which are seen the four-and-twenty Elders seated on 
thrones to judge the Dead. ^ 

Behind the seat and Throne of Christ appear the Tabemadc 
with its veil opened, the Candlestick on the right, the Table widi 
Shew-bread on the left, and, in the midst, the Cross in place of the 
Ark, the Cherubim bowing over it. 

On the right hand of the Throne of Christ is Baptism, on His left 
is the Lord's Supper — the two introducers into Eternal Life. Women 
with infants approach the figure of an Apostle, which represents 
Baptism ; and on the left hand the Lord's Supper is administered 
by Angels, from the hands of another aged Apostle ; these kneel on 
each side of the throne, which is surrounded by a glory : in the glory 
many infants appear, representing Eternal Creation flowing from the 
Divine Humanity in Jesus ; who opens the Scroll of Judgment, upon 
His knees, before the Living and the Dead. 

Such is the Design which you, my dear Sir, have been the cause 
of my producing, and which, but for you, might have slept till the 
Last Judgment. 

William Blake. 

February 18, 1808. 

The Last Judgment was, in the final years of Blake's life, 
once more repeated as a * fresco,' into which he introduced 
some thousand figures, bestowing much finish and splendour 
of tint on it. 

The reader will find in the Second Volume a very curious 
paper by Blake, concerning the Last Judgment, appearing to 
be partly descriptive of his picture, partly, as usual with him, 
running off into vision, and speculation about vision, and ex- 
planations of what a last judgment is and is not. This paper 
is printed verbatim from a piecing together of many scattered 
paragraphs or pages in the MS. Book by Blake, belonging to 
Mr. Rossetti, elsewhere already referred to ; most of the 
fragments certainly, and all of them very likely, forming a 
continuous whole. The descriptive portion of the paper is 
valuable in proportion to the interest appertaining to the 



.^rr. 49—51] r3W^it^ zm l'jt:n)fj%jbrj^ 2r^} 



fresco, one of dae sicfit izzcodzoc uc t3e fmrnliMtt-jBg prjojac- 
tions oi Biaicc s fiJb. Ock -vimif ^tpc ai s^^cic tftraiS 1^ lisrc a 
similar soft of rTpVny*Tna S|t O szj t g i au Midadl An^dci^ oc 
Rubens, of tbc Last Jnagpmsac isi sanrarrss saf pgfirrrr.fg br 
those painters rc3p£sr?v»rr: Kirn naze luf tiem cggtafrr/j ir^s 
more capable of /Moostsi^ tie: fixcntrm tigr jfaV.^. Vhstfrer 
may be the caaaocsenr s ^ y g r o jcr 2J t:/ txe r*il2:*.Tr*: psveci 
for exc i iiluig it. Hov dbssL as ixssxnr i*sci£C!3L, tbt ji.fT&trirj 
of treatment, of fcuDrvark azic i!itf!tzif cif iricrSfnt, ir aS tifang 
paintiiigs: yet Jwr itnBif iht- t3^ ^ofv^r^axx: 'A Ag:frrTrng.of 
the nuods embodBcd is liie -w^jb;^ ^ iSoe asjpctts lodcr -vindi 
die subject, tibe /%icr iOs ^ssaesaL*si jraarrrf-gitaa: tie inacx prr- 
ciiicts of the paiates' TfitrTi»rtf> ! As i^^itxds dae r^mosarj 
or yrmhlTye porrSan of iSat 3»c«cr ttSs^itA v>. a jeaoadcal^aie 
fesenJiljfinp to EtwoiuAoTg ncxv be c&sericd is it hese a2id 

gc C:«TE85»in5cK3cs^ vitSdi it 
i pgitjutl ouzkd^ikas are n; 
objects, pFQ^^srtKS, a&d ^resrlsu Wiiii 



femaik% «e re&r the lead&r t<> tfbe ps^^er ttaril 

Ozias Han^ixfey, a Traol a- tar e pscstcx of laoe exceikaaoe. 
whose voria bar*: a pscxBic ^wtemcBS c^ psdrtfng 2Lad 
refined sin^Bdty is a xk^v cu«i-£iEiJ&Sc«[>ed st^it, -vas irgrffiitif 
a patron as veil as hiezA, i'jr -wiirjm ISssuut had expre^y 
ocdoued many cf bis alatfaxaltd bc^jks. Hizirrpkaptry bad 
passed tbiee yxars of 3has He:, ij!^; — '6'^, m India, asd bad 
reaped a fiddai kuwest in Onde by jeaming nrintafmes of 
die nfive pmooL Ulal h» beocAe of these, I vender ? 
lS$S nay hate Imu a jj^ sane of them acnHs seas as the 
woffk of natisr aitiits ! Hk sheldbes and xKiee-bocfe dnnag 
thai; period ^a:^ m At BuiliA Minmm Whcni, m 1790, Us 
«g^ first brrannf impeffect, be took to oayoiis and oOs 
with iB snoceM. His eyes fai>d bim altogether in 1799. 
after which he fired at Knigrlsbndge. 

At the Academy's Exhfbitkm in Scunerset HoD^e for iSdS, 
Blake, after nine r^u^' iagteTTmrooa, exlcbited tvo works, 
hong, as wmai, m ihe Drawing and Miniature Room. Borh 



264 



LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 



[1806—1808. 



were subjects eminently suited to show, in his enemies 
despite, what he could do : Christ in the Sepu^re guarded by 
A ngeU, and Jacolfs Dream, yaeei's Dream, a fresco, using 
the word in Blake's peculiar sense, now in the possesion of 
Lord Houghton, is a poetic and beautiful composition, of bi 
deeper imaginative feeling than the much^raised landscape 
effect of Allston. the American, >or the gracefully designed 
scene of Stotbard, whose forte, by the way, did not lie in 
bringing angels from the skies, though he did much to raise 
mortals thither. In Blake's fresco, angelic figures, some 
winged, others wingless, but all truly angelic in su^^estios, 
make radiant the mysterious spiral stairs heavenward ; and 
some among them lead children — a very Blake-like touch. 

This was the last time Blake exhibited at the Royal Aca- 
demy ; he had done so but five times in all No wonder that 
his name was little known to an exhibition-going public And 
in truth, dreams so devout as his, and brought from very 
different worlds, were ill suited to jostle in the miscellaneoui 
crowd. Solitude and silence are needed to enter into their 
sequestered spirit. 




CHAPTER XXn'. 

THE DESIGNS TO BLAIR. 1804—8. I^et. 47—51.] 

From July 1805 ^ ^^y 1808 the twelve admirable etdiings 
after Kake's designs liad been is progress under the skilful 
and coDsdentiotts hands of the Italian woiicman, — etdiings 
which have not a line too mnch nor too little. They were, as 
I have said, a really favourable medium for introducing Blake 
to the many : although admirers might prefer the artist's own 
characteristic cxpresaon of himself with the graver. There 
were no such thoroughpaced admirers then, perhaps there 
are not above half a dozen now. Schiavonetti*s version is, 
in fact, a graceful translation, and, as most would think, an 
improvement. 

The boldly-engraved portrait of Blake after Phillips' fine 

drawing, prefixed to TAt Gratte, was considered like We, in 

itt recognise the high visionary brow, the speculative eyes 

1. dttiaditffistic of WilUam Hake. But the aspect is a too 

^ iiplirnrf and made-mfi on^ too studiously inspired^ and does 

Ijgjijit tiieiefoiie convey a wholly reliable imiM^ssion. You 

p :imikl haidty, for instance, su^>ect its original to have been 

8hort tn stature, as he really was. {See Frontispiece, VoL II.) 

In the autumn of 1808, the book was published by Cromek, 

in alliance with Cadell and Davies, Johnson, Payne, and 

other leaders in the trade. It was beautifully printed in 

quarto by Bensley, the best printer of his day, and was 

indorsed with Fuseli's testimonial, and the credentials from 

the R.A.'s again. Cromek had certainly worked hard for his 



266 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804— 1808. 

own profit and Blake's fame, in obtaining subscriptions. His 
list comprises no less than five hundred and eighty-nine 
names, from London and the chief provincial towns,— 
Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, 
Newcastle. Native Yorkshire,— Leeds, Wakefield, Halifax,— 
contributes a large contingent. There are, however, only one 
or two titled subscribers. The artists, always best apprecia- 
tors of one another, muster in strength as supporters of the 
enterprise, not without importunity on busy Cromek's part 
We particularize with interest the names of Bewick, from &r 
Newcastle, and ' Mr. Green, landscape draughtsman, Amble- 
side.' A few literary men came forward ; among them 
Holcroft, and Hay ley, bringing with him Mrs. Poole of 
Lavant, and printer Seagrave. Vigilant Cromek had, at the 
outset, taken care not to neglect these old friends of the 
designer's. The subscriptions at two and a half guineas 
amount to above ;f 1,800 ; besides proof copies at four 
guineas, and a margin of unsubscribed-for copies on sale. 
This makes Cromek pretty sure of a good profit by his 
protigfs genius and his own activities, after all outlay to 
designer (twenty guineas), engraver (perhaps ;f 500), printing, 
advertising, puffing, travelling expenses, and allowances to 
the trade. 

While the engravings were in progress, the name of the 
Queen as a subscriber had been somehow obtained, and per- 
mission to dedicate the designs to her; of which Blake 
availed himself in the following simple and earnest stanzas, — 
a mere enigma, I should fancy, to old Queen Charlotte The 
vignette, which was to have accompanied it, Cromek, as 
we saw, returned on his hands : — 

The door of death is made of gold, 
That mortal eyes cannot behold; 
But when the mortal eyes are clos'd, 
And cold and pale the limbs repos'd. 
The soul awakes, and, wond'ring, sees 
In her mild hand the golden keys. 



i«T. 47— 5«-) THE DESIGNS TO BLAIR. 267 

The grave is heaven's golden gate, 
And rich and poor around it wait ; 
O Shepherdess <^ England's fold, 
Behold this ga^e of pearl and gold ! 

To dedicate to England's Queen 
The visions that my soul has seen, 
And, by her kind pennission bring 
What I have borne on solemn wing 
From the vast regions of the grave. 
Before her throne my wings I wave. 
Bowing before my sov'reign's feet : 
The Grave produced these blossoms sweet. 
In mild repose from earthly strife ; 
The blossoms of eternal life ! 

William Blake. 

When Blake speaks of — 

The visions that my soul has seen, 
• • • • • 

borne on solemn wing 
From the vast regions of the grave, 

it is no metaphorical flourish, but plain facts he means 
and feels. This is cultivating 'the Arts' in a high spirit 
indeed. 

The simple beauty and grandeur of the illustrations to 
Blair's Grave are within the comprehension of most who 
possess any feeling for what is elevated in art. Fuseli's 
evidence in their favour, despite turgid Johnsonianism, which, 
as usual with him, fails to conceal the uneasy gait of a man 
not at home in our language, is, in part, lucid and to the 
purpose. 

'The author of the moral series before us,' he writes, 
after some preliminary generalizing on the triteness of the 
ordinary types employed in art, 'endeavoured to awake 
'sensibility by touching our sympathies with nearer, less 
'ambiguous, and less ludicrous imagery than what mytho- 
'logy, Gothic superstition, or symbols as far-fetched as 



268 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804—1808. 

inadequate, could supply. His invention has been chiefly 
employed to spread a familiar and domestic atmosphere 
round the most important of all subjects ; to connect the 
visible and the invisible world, without provoking proba- 
bility ; and to lead the eye from the milder light of time to 
the radiations of eternity. 

' Such is the plan and the moral part of the author's inven- 
tion. The technic part and the execution of the artist, 
though to be examined by other principles, and addressed 
to a narrower circle, equally claim approbation, sometimes 
excite our wonder, and not unseldom our fears, when we see 
him play on the very verge of legitimate invention. But 
wildness so picturesque in itself, so often redeemed by taste, 
simplicity, and elegance, what child of fancy, what artist 
would wish to discharge? The groups and single figures, 
on their own basis, abstracted from their general composi- 
tion and considered without attention to the plan, frequently 
exhibit those genuine, unaffected attitudes, those simple 
graces, which nature and the heart alone can dictate, and 
only an eye inspired by both discover. Every class of artists, 
in every stage of their progress or attainments, from the 
student to the finished master, and from the contriver of 
ornament to the painter of history, will find here materials 
of art and hints of improvement.' 
The designs to Blair are in the same key as those to The 
Night Tlioughts of eight years previous ; but are more 
mature, purer, and less extravagant Both sets of desig^ns 
occupy, to some extent, the same ground. And thus similar 
motives occur, and even compositions, as already noticed. 
Blake's previous etching, by the way, of the Skeleton Re- 
animated^ compares favourably with the present one by 
Schiavonetti, showing, as do all the etchings to Young, that 
he coidd have executed his own designs to The Grave. The 
chief want of those etchings was what engravers call colour, 

Blair's Grave^ a poem written before the Night Thoughts, 
though published the same year (1743), was, sixty-two years 



4 ;? V ■■■}■ v- I - 

• ft > « * 



^ ^ -J: 






N- 



iET. 47— 5«.] THE DESIGNS TO BLAIR. 269 

later, still a popular English classic Blake's designs form a 
strangely spiritual commentary on the somewhat matter-of- 
fact homily of the dry, old Scottish divine : they belong 
to a more heavenly latitude. Running parallel to the poem 
rather than springing out of it, they have, in some cases, 
little foundation in the text, in others absolutely none ; as, 
for instance, the emblematic * Soul exploring the recesses 
of the Tomb* The Series in itself forms a poem, simple, 
beautiful, and exalted : what tender eloquence in ' The Soul 
liovering over the Body ; ' in the passionate ecstasy of * The 
Re-union of Soul and Body\* the rapt felicity of mutual 
recognition in * The meeting of a Family in Heaven^ There 
meet husband and wife, little brothers and sisters ; two angels 
spread a canopy of loving wings over the group^ one remark- 
able for surpassing, sculturesque beauty. Such designs are, in 
motive, spirit, manner of embodiment, without parallel, and 
enlarge the boundaries of art. Equally high meaning has 
the oft-mentioned allegory, Deaths Door^ into which * Age on 
crutches is hurried by a tempest,' while above sits a youthful 
figure, * the renovated man in light and glory,' looking upwards 
in joyful adoration and awe. And again the Death of the 
Strong Wicked man: the still-fond wife hanging over the 
convulsed body, in wild, horror-struck sympathy, the terrified 
daughter standing beside, with one hand shutting out the scene 
from her ty^s \ while (he wicked soul is hurried, amid flames, 
through the casement. What unearthly surprise and awe 
expressed in that terrible face, in those uplifted deprecating 
hands! Tlie Last Judgmenty unlike the other designs, is a 
subject on which great artists had already lavished imagina- 
tion and executive skill. But Blake's conception of it is an 
original and homogeneous one, worthy of the best times of 
art. What other painter, since Michael Angelo, could have 
really designed anew that tremendous scene ? 

These are not mere exercises of art, to be coldly measured 
by the foot-rule of criticism, but truly inventions to be read 
and entered into with something of the spirit which conceived 



^^0 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1804—1808. 

them. The oftener I have looked into them, the more mean- 
ing and eloquence I have discovered, and the more freshness. 
Never, surely, were the difficulties of human speech (whether 
with word or outline) more fearlessly encountered. A poor 
designer moves in shackles, when handling such topics ; has, 
for instance, but the same tangible flesh and blood wherewith 
to express material body and immaterial souL And that 
anomaly alone leads many a practical person to dismiss the 
designs at once, as absurd and puerile. But if we stay to 
consider how this allegorical mode is a necessary convention 
to symbolize a meaning beyond the reach of art, we are soon 
reconciled to the discrepancy, and begin to valuQ aright the 
daring and the suggestive beauty with which these meanings 
are indicated. That shuddering awe of the strong wicked 
man's naked soul (even though a material form express it), 
as he enters the unknown world; the living grace of the 
draped feminine figure, emblem of a purer human soul, 
which lingers a moment yearningly over the stiffening mortal 
frame it has forsaken, its mute eloquence so strangely en- 
hanced by that utterly lonely, mountain landscape into which 
it is about to vanish, seen through the open casement : I say 
such art ranks with that of the greatest eras ; is of the same 
sublime reach and pure quality. What signifies it that these 
drawings cover but a few Inches, and are executed in water- 
colours instead of oils or fresco } 

Now, in maturity, as when in youth producing the Songs 
of Innocence^ or in age the Inventions to yo6, we see Blake 
striking always the same mystic chord. The bridge thrown 
across from the visible to the invisible world was ever firm 
and sure to him. The unwavering hold (of which his 
* Visions ' were a result) upon an unseen world, such as in 
other ways poetry and even science assure us of, and whose 
revelation is the meaning underlying all religions, — this 
habitual hold is surely an authentic attainment, not an hal- 
lucination; whether the particular form in which the faith 
clothes itself, the language of Blake's mind, — souls entering 



I 



•M 



r c 



« 






I — - 




.CT, 47— SI] THE DESIGNS TO BLAIR. 2/1 

and departing from material forms, angels hovering near poor 
human creatures, and the like emblems, — be adequate or not. 
In such intensity as Blake's, it was truly a bUssful possession ; 
it proved enchanted armour against the world, the flesh, and 
the devil, and all their sordid influences. 

I have still a word to say apropos of one of these twelve 
designs, and a ^^-ater-colour drawing formerly in Mr. Butts' 
collection, illustrative of the verse — 

*• But Hope rekindled only to illame 
The shades of death, and light her to the tomb.' 

It is a duplicate, probably, of one of the unengraved designs 
from Young. The main feature, a descending precipice broken 
into dark recesses, is the same as in that g^rand and eloquent 
tableau in the Blair^ of the Descent of Man into the Vale of 
Death. The figures are different, but the same motive 
pervades both designs. 

Of the composition in the Blair^ an intelligible summary 
occurs in Cromek's Descriptive List at the end of the volume. 
' The pious daughter, weeping and conducting her sire 
' onward ; age, creeping carefully on hands and knees ; an 
' elder, without friend or kindred ; a miser ; a bachelor, blindly 

* proceeding, no one knows whither, ready to drop into the 
' dark abyss ; frantic youth, rashly devoted to vice and passion, 
' rushing past the diseased and old who totter on crutches ; 
' the wan, declining virgin ; the miserable and distracted 
' widow ; the hale country youth ; and the mother and her 

* numerous progeny, already arrived in this valley, are among 

* the groups which, &c. — are, in fact, <z//the groups.' 

The fate of the original copper-plates has been somewhat 
singular. After being used by Ackermann to illustrate a 
Spanish Poem, Meditaciones Poeticas por Jose Janquin de 
Mora : Londres : asimismo en Colofnbia^ Buenos Ayres^ ChUi^ 
Pcro y Guatemala^ 1826, they, at a more recent period, I have 
been tpld, found their way across the Alantic, serving for an 
American edition — not of Blair's poem, but of Martin Tupper*s 
Proverbial Philosophy. 



2 72 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [18Q4--1808. 

In the unengravcd drawing I have referred to, we have 
the Soul departing from tlu dying Nareissa^ over whose lifeless 
form her lover, with lamenting, outstretched arms, is bending; 
the bright figure of Hope, with lighted lamp, beckons to the 
shades below, down the rocky stairs leading to which old 
and young are wending, as in the Blair design ; the timid, 
hesitating girl, the strong man hurrying, age creeping, the 
tender mother (a very beautiful figure) leading her in&nt 
children. In the recesses of the tomb below, we again 
encounter emblematic, sorrowful deathbeds. On the hills^ in 
the background above, are faintly seen the dim populations of 
the earth, all journeying to the same bourne. The principal 
figures are of exceeding grace and loveliness ; as, in particular, 
the heavenly one of Hope, and that of the little giri who 
accompanies her youthful brothers, with reluctant step^ with 
drooping head, and face hidden in her hand, shuddering and 
sad to exchange the fair daylight for the gloomy tomb— a 
figure which, for its expressive beauty, Raphael himself ought 
have sketched. 

About this date (1806) were also produced some designs to 
Shakespeare which were neither commissioned nor engraved. 
An account of them will be found in the AtmUaUi 
Catalogue, Vol. II. Nos. 83-85. They are now, with a few from 
other hands, bound up in a quarto edition of Shakespeare, 
which was executed for the Rev. Ker Porter, who himself 
contributed one or two well-conceived designs ; notably, that 
of Falstaff between the Merry Wives. There is also an early 
sample of Mulready's art, evidently showing the influence of 
Fuscli. But by far tlie most remarkable of the collection is 
the Ghost from Hamlet^ by Blake, of which a print is here 
given. The Ghost has led Hamlet to tlie verge of the sea, 
far from the Castle ; and, on tlie solitary moonlit sands, he has 
fallen on his knees in the act of swearing to obey his father^s 
behest of vengeance on the perpetrators of his * most foul, 
strange, and unnatural murder.' The volume is now in the 
l)osscss!on of Mr. Alexander Macmillan. 




"ADItD, AUIBD, AUleU : 




1 -— 



1i 



CHAPTER XXV. 

APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC. 1808— lo. [/et. 51—53.] 

SCIHAVONETTI was, by 1808, engaged on the plate from 
Stothard's Canterbury Pilgrimage, At the end of the Blair, 
published, as we saw, in the autumn of 1808, appeared, to 
indignant Blake's unspeakable disg^ust doubtless, a fiowery 
Prospectus of Cromek's, for publishing by subscription and 
'under the immediate patronage of H.R.H. the Prince of 

* Wales, a line engraving after * the now * well-known Cabinet 
' Picture ; which, in fact, Cromek had exhibited throughout 
the three kingdoms at a shilling a head. 

It was now that Blake finished his * fresco ' of the Canterbury 
Pilgrimage, with the view of ' appealing to the public,* — the 
wrong kind of tribunal for him. To this end, also, he painted 
or finished some other 'frescos' and drawings. The com- 
pletion of the Pilgrimage was attended by adverse influences 
of the supernatural kind — as Blake construed them. He had 
hung his original design over a door in his sitting-room, where, 
for a year perhaps it remained. When, on the appearance 
of Stothard's picture, he went to take down his drawing, he 
found it nearly effaced : the result of some malignant spell of 
Stothard's, he would, in telling the story, assure his friends. 
But as one of them (Flaxman) mildly expostulated, ' Why I 

* my dear sir 1 as if, after having left a pencil drawing so long 
'exposed to air and dust, you could have expected otherwise ! ' 
TYiQ fresco was ultimately bought by a customer who seldom 
failed — ^Mr. Butts ; and was afterwards in the possession of 

VOL. L T 



2/4 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. I1808— i8ia 

the late Sir William Stirling MaxwelL It vrdiS sent to the 
International Exhibition of 1862. 

Thinking to take a leaf out of Cromek's book, Blake 
determined to s/tow his work, and 'shame the fools' who 
preferred Stothard ; to show it under more advantageous con- 
ditions than were to be had in the Academy Exhibitions. In 
May, 1809, — the year in which our old friend Hayley brought 
out his Life of Ronmey^ and made a second marriage even 
more ill-advised than the first ; — in May, Blake opened an 
Exhibition of his own, on the first floor of his brother the 
hosier's house, at the comer of Broad Street The plan had 
the merit of cheapness, at any rate, involving little outlay or 
risk ; the artist, in fact, not having money to venture. The 
Exhibition comprised sixteen ' Poetical and Historical Inven- 
tions,' as he designated them, — eleven * frescos,' seven draw- 
ings : a collection singularly remote from ordinary sympathies, 
or even ordinary apprehension. Bent on a violent effort to- 
wards justifying his ways to men and critics, he drew up and 
had printed a Descriptive Catalogue of these works, in which 
he interprets them, and expounds at large his own canons 
of art. Of which more anon. The price of this Catologue. 
which included admission to the Exhibition, was half a crown. 

A singular enterprise, for unpractised Blake, was this of 
vying with adroit, experienced Cromek ! As if a simple- 
minded visionary could advertise, puff, and round the due 
preparatory paragraphs for newspaper and magazine, ol 
' latest fine arts intelligence/ An exhibition set going under 
such auspices was likely to remain a profound secret to the 
world at large. A few, however, among the initiated were 
attracted by curiosity to see a picture which was the subject 
of a notorious quarrel between two friendly artists, and 
which had been painted in rivalry of Stothard's already 
famous work. An English artist who died lately at Florence, 
above ninety years of age, — Mr. Seymour Kirkup, celebrated, 
among other things, as the discoverer of Giotto's fresco in 
the Chapel of the Podcsta, — was one of these few : Mr. Henr)^ 



^T. 51—53] APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC. 275 

Crabb Robinson, a gentleman of singularly wide intercourse 
with the distinguished men of two generations, was another. 
On entering the room, as he related to me, he found himself 
alone. With a wise prescience of the inevitable future scarcity 
of that remarkable brochure^ the Descriptive Catalogue, he 
purchased four copies for himself and friends — Charles 
Lamb among them. When, after that wholesale purchase, 
he inquired of James Blake, the custodian of the unique 
gallery, whether he could not come again free ? — ' Oh I yes ; 
free as long as you live!* was the reply of the humble 
hosier, overjoyed at having so munificent a visitor, or a 
visitor at all. 

This James Blake is characterized, by those who remember 
him, as an honest, unpretending shopkeeper in an old-world 
style, ill-calculated for great prosperity in the hosiery, or any 
other line. In his dress he is described to me as adhering to 
knee-breeches, worsted stockings, and buckles. As primitive 
as his brother he was, though very unlike : his head not in 
the clouds amid radiant visions, but bent downwards and 
studying the pence of this world — how to get them which he 
found no easy task, and how to keep. He looked upon his 
erratic brother with pity and blame, as a wilful, misguided 
man, wholly in a wrong track ; while the latter despised 
him for his grovelling, worldly mind, — as he reckoned it 
Time widened the breach. In after years, when James had 
retired on a scanty independence and lived in Cirencester 
Street, becoming a near neighbour of Mr. Linnell, at whose 
house Blake was then a frequent visitor, they did not even 
speak. At James's shop, ladies yet living, friends of Blake's, 
remember to have made their little purchases of gloves and 
haberdashery. 

Lamb preferred Blake's Canterbury Pilgrimage to Stothard's. 
* A work of wonderful power and spirit, hard and dry, yet 
with grace,' he says of it, on one occasion. That rare critic 
was delighted also with the Descriptive Catalogue. The 
analysis of the characters in the Prologue — the Knight, the 

T 2 



27^ UFE or W2LLlA3f 



Cha:x:er's pcem he had ever icadL 

In Soothey's DocUr^ special aSnsioBi is made tsd esse of tir 
lectures in this exhibstkm. * That painter of greaft bcc iTwar 
'genius, William Blake, of vhoen ASaa Qwmaa^BeumL has 
written so interesting a memoir, took this Trimd" {the ssavr 
of the three who escaped from the batde of Camha. wl«e 
Arthur fell — ^ the stroi^;est man, the beaotifiillest aiam, aad 
the ugliest man \ — ' for the subject of a picture, mtodk k 
' called Th€Amcuni BriUms. It was one of his worst picbares T; 
' which is sa^-ing much ; and he has iUnstrated it with one ol 
' the most curious commentaries in his very curious aad Terr 
' rare Descriptive Catalogue of his own pictures.* 

The Catalogue is excessively rare. I have seen but dure 
copies ; heard of, perhaps, three more. Here is die tide : * A 

* Descriptive Catalogue of Pictures ; Poetical and HzstJ<risal 

* Inventions ; Painted by William Blake im Waier-eobmrs. Arn^ 

* t/ie ancient met/iod of Fresco Painting resumed : and Dra^> 

* ings, for Public Inspection and for Sale by Private Contract. 
' London : printed by D. N. Skury, 7, Berwick Street^ S^kt\f^ 
' 7. Blake, 28, Broad Street, Golden Square. 1S09.* It is 
reprinted entire in Vol. II. 

Another curious waif, bearing a record of this exhibition. 
has floated down, and is now in the possession of Mr. Alex. 
C. Weston, — a printed programme dated in Blake's autc^raph. 
May 15, 1809, and directed to Ozias Humphrey; containing 
one page of print preceded by an elaborate tide-page. It 
shows that the picture of the Ancient Britons had * the figures 
full as large as life.' 

* In the last battle that Arthur fought, the most beautiful was one 

* That returned, and the most strong another : with them also retiimed 

* The most ugly ; and no other beside returned from the bloody field. 

* The most beautiful, the Roman warriors trembled before and 

worshipped. 

* The most strong they melted before and dissolved in his presence. 
' The most ugly they fled with outcries and contortions of their limbs.' 



^T. 51— 53] APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC. 277 

Let it be added that Mr. Kirkup thought this the finest of 
Blake's works, remembering to the last, reports Mr. Swinburne, 
' the fury and splendour of energy there contrasted with the 
' serene ardour of simply beautiful courage, the violent life of 

* the design, and the fierce distance of fluctuating battle.' 

In treacherous Cromek's despite, Blake had resolved to 
engrave, as well as exhibit, the Pilgrimage. On opening his 
exhibition, he issued a printed prospectus of his intended 
engraving, almost as curious as the Catalogue. It is a literary 
composition which halts between the monologue of a self- 
taught enthusiast and the circular of a competing trades- 
man. Observe how he girds, parenthetically, at Cromek 
and Schiavonetti. Date^ May \^th, 1809. 

BLAKE'S CHAUCER, 

THE CANTERBURY PILGRIMS. 

The Fresco Picture, 

Representing Chaucer's Characters, painted by 

WILLIAM BLAKE, 
As it is now submitted to the Public. 

* The Designer proposes to engrave [it] in a correct and 
' finished line manner of engraving, similar to those original 
' copper-plates of Albert Durer, Lucas von Leyden, Aldegrave, 

* and the old original engravers, who were great masters in 
' painting and designing ; whose method, alone, can delineate 
' Character as it is in this Picture^ where all the lineaments 
'are distinct. 

' It is hoped that the Painter will be allowed by the public 
' (notwithstanding artfully disseminated insinuations to the 

* contrary) to be better able than any other to keep his own 

* characters and expressions ; having had sufficient evidence 

* in the works of our own Hogarth, that no other artist can 
' reach the original spirit so well as the Painter himself, 



278 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i8og— 1810. 

' especially as Mr. B. is an, old well-known and acknowledged 

* engraver. 

' The size of the engraving will be three feet one inch long, 

* by one foot high. The artist engages to deliver it, finished, 
' in one year from September next. No work of art can take 
' longer than a year : it may be worked backwards and for- 

* wards without end, and last a man's whole life ; but he 

* will, at length, only be forced to bring it back to what it 

* was, and it will be worse than it was at the end of the first 

* twelve months. The value of this [the ?] artist's year is 
' the criterion of Society ; and as it is valued, so does 

* Society flourish or decay. 

* The price to Subscribers, FOUR GUINEAS ; two to be 

* paid at the time of subscribing, the other two, on delivery 
' of the print. 

' Subscriptions received at No. 28, comer of BROAD 

* Street, Golden Square, where the Picture is now 

* exhibiting, among other works, by the same artist. 

* The price will be considerably raised to non-subscribers.' 
Singularly artful announcement, — surely a suggestion of 

brother James's ! The swan walks very ungracefully. Cromek 
had little cause for alarm at such naive self-assertion: so 
innocent an attempt to divide the public favour. In reading 
this, and similar effusions of Blake's, allowances must be 
made for a want of early familiarity with the conventions of 
printed speech, parallel to his w^nt of dexterity with 
those of the painter's language ; which explains a good 
deal of the crudeness and eccentricity. 

It was a favourite dogma of Blake's, not, certainly, learned 
of the political economists, that the true power of Society 
depends on its recognition of the arts. Which is his meaning 
v/hen, pardonably regarding himself as a representative of 
high art, he mysteriously announces, ' The value of this artist's 

* year is the criterion of Society, and as it is valued, so does 
'society flourish or decay.' Society had little to congratulate 
itself upon in its recognition of *///«• artist's year.' Miserably 



^T. SI— 53] APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC. 2/9 

did she undervalue it, to her discredit and our loss. This 
artist's fresh and daring conceptions it would have been well 
to have embodied in happier, maturer, more lucid shape, than 
' society ' ever vouchsafed him the slenderest help towards 
realizing. As it is, one of his archaic-looking drawings is 
often more matterful and suggestive, imprisons more thought 
and imagination, than are commonly beaten out thin over the 
walls of an entire exhibition. 

In September or October 1809, ^^ engraving of his 
Canterbury Pilgrimage was commenced. And, fulfilling the 
voluntary engagement recorded in the prospectus, the print, — 
somewhat smaller in size than the picture, — was issued on the 
8th of the following October ; a year or two before the plate 
after Stothard's picture emerged from the difficulties which 
befel it. Blake thjis forestalled his forestaller, to the indigna- 
tion of Stothard in his turn ; the print being of the same size 
as Cromek*s intended one, and having inevitable resemblances 
to it, in general composition. 

It was launched without the slightest help from the 
elaborate machinery usually put in motion to secure a 
welcome for an important engraving, and, by energetic 
Cromek, worked on so unprecedented a scale. As may 
readily be believed, the subscribers might almost have been 
counted on the hand. Blake's work, indeed, lacks all the 
alluring grace of Stothard's felicitous composition, in which a 
wide range of previous art is indirectly laid under contribu- 
tion, or, to speak plainly, cribbed from, after the fashion of 
most well-educated historical painters ; whereas Blake boldly 
and obstinately draws on his own resources. Baie where 
Stoth^rd's composition is opulent, yet challenging comparison 
as to the very qualities in which Blake was most deficient, 
his design creates an unfavourable impression before the 
superficial spectator has time to recognise its essential merits. 
A good notion of the work may be obtained from our reduced 
outline with the series of heads, on the same scale as the 
original, engraved below it. ' Hard and dry,' as Lamb 



280 LIF£ OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i8o&— 1810. 

observes, it is, — uncouth compared with Stothard's ; but, tested 
by the poetry and spirit of Chaucer, it is, in all points of 
character and arrangement, undoubtedly superior. There 
is, too, a mediaeval look about Blake's which does not 
distinguish Stothard's version. 

I have heard that Blake retouched the plate of the 
Canterbury Pilgrimage, and did not improve it There 
are impressions, rather black and heavy in effect, which 
would seem to confirm this rumour. 

To judicious counsel from a friend Blake was always 
amenable, but was stiffened in error by hostile criticism. 
Unaided by the former, while at work on his fresco and 
engraving, he had been in the very worst mood for realizing 
success, or even the harmonious exercise of his powers. He 
was in the temper to exaggerate his eccentricities, rather 
than to modify them. If Cromek, instead of throwing up 
Blake's drawing when he could not dictate terms, had gone 
on and gently persuaded the designer to soften his peculi- 
arities ; or if Blake had suffered his design to be engraved by 
^ Schiavonetti, and doctored (as that sng^aver so well knew 
how) by correct smooth touches, some of Blake's favourite 
hard, * determinate outline' being sacrified a little, a different 
fortune would have awaited the composition. It might 
have become almost as well known and admired as 
Stothard's, certainly as the Blair, instead of being a 
curiosity sought only by collectors of scarce things. 

Blake was at no pains, throughout this business or after- 
wards, to conceal his feelings towards Stothard. To the end 
of his life he would, to strangers, abuse the popular favourite, 
with a vehemence to them unaccountable. With friends and 
sympathizers, he was silent on the topic. Such was the 
mingled waywardness and unworldliness of the man ; ex- 
aggerating his prejudices to the uncongenial, waiving them 
with the few who could interpret them aright^ He was blind 
to the fact that his motives for decrying Stothard were liable 
to misconstruction ; and would have been equally unguarded 



MT. SI— S3.] APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC. 28 1 

could he have perceived it. For Stothard*s art — in his eyes 
far too glib, smooth, and mundane in its graces — he enter- 
tained a sincere aversion ; though, as in the case of Reynolds, 
some degree of soreness may have aggravated the dislike. 
And the epithets he, in familiar conversation, applied to it, 
would, repeated in cold blood, sound extravagant and puerile. 

On his part, too, the ordinarily serene Stothard, the inno- 
cent instrument of shifty Cromek's schemes, considered 
himself just as much aggrieved by Blake. Up to 1806 they 
had been friends, if not always warm ones ; friends of nearly 
thirty years' standing. The present breach was never healed. 
Once, many years later, they met at a gathering of artists — 
of the Artists' Benevolent, I think. Before going in to dinner, 
Blake, placable as he was irascible, went up to Stothard and 
offered to shake hands ; an overture the frigid, exemplary man 
declined, as Mr. Linnell, an eye-witness, tells me. Another 
time, Stothard was ill : Blake called and wished to see him 
and be reconciled, but was refused. There is something of 
the kingdom of heaven in this — on the one side. Such men 
are not to be judged by wayward words. Warm hearts 
generally spend their worst violence in t/ient. 

This squabble with Cromek was a discordant episode in 
Blake's life. The competition with Stothard it induced placed 
him in a false position, and, in most people's eyes, a wrong 
one. In Blake's own mind, where all should have been, and 
for the most part was, peace, the sordid conflict left a scar. 
It left him more tetchy than ever ; more disposed to wilful 
exaggeration of individualities already too prominent, more 
prone to unmeasured violence of expression. The extremes 
he again gave way to in his design and writings — mere 
ravings to such as had no key to them — did him no good 
with that portion of the public the illustrated Blair had 
introduced him to. Those designs most people thought wild 
enough ; yet they were really a modified version of his style. 
Such demand as had existed for his works, never considerable, 
declined. 



282 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1808— i8ia 

Now, too, was established for him the damaging reputation 
' Mad/ by which the world has since agreed to recognise 
William Blake. And yet it is one — and let the reader note 
this — which none who knew the visionary man intimately, • 
at any period of his life, thought of applying to him. And, 
in his time, he was known to, and valued by, many shrewd, 
clear-headed men ; of whom suffice it to mention Fuseli, 
Flaxman, Linnell. More on this point hereafter. 



^ CHAPTER XXVI. 

ENGRAVER CROMEK. 1807—1812. [jet So— SS-] 

While Blake had been nursing his wrath against Cromek 
and Stothard, and making ineffectual reprisals by exhibition 
and engraving, the course of Cromek's speculation had not run 
smoothly. As intimately, if indirectly, bearing on Blake's life of 
struggles, this matter ought, perhaps, to be glanced at here. 
We must first go back a little, and track Cromek in his 
versatile career. The retrospect will, here and there, throw a 
vivid ray of light on the real character of the man, and so 
enable us to construe Blake aright in the critical relation in 
which the two, for a time, stood to one another. It may help 
the reader to a conclusion as to the rights of that difficult case 
— for so Smith and Cunningham seemed to find it — Blake v. 
StotJtard and Anotlur. 

During the progress, under the engraver, of his first publish- 
ing scheme, the active Yorkshireman had been turning his 
literary tastes to account. He had made a tour in Dumfries- 
shire, in quest of unpublished fugitive pieces by Robert Bums ; 
a tour undertaken, according to his own statement, from pure 
interest in the poet He discovered many previously un- 
known ; others rejected ' on principle ' by the g^eat man's 
posthumous patron, prim Currie, of now seldom blessed 
memory. The visit was well timed. Bums had been dead 
ten years ; but everything by him, everything about him, was 
already carefully treasured by those privileged enough to 



284 LIFE OF WIIXIAM BLAKE. [i8o7~>i8i2. 

have aught to keep or remember. His mother, and others of 
his family and friends, were still living. Cromek returned 
with well-filled wallet ; though he too, squeamish as Currie, 
must needs keep back The JMy Beggars and Hofy WiUi£i * 
Prayer, Of these gleanings he made an octavo volume, 
supplementary to Currie's four, entitling it The Reliques of 
Bums. It was published by Cadell and Davies in 180^ — 
the year in which the Blair came out, — ^and is a volume on 
which subsequent editors and biog^phers of Bums have 
freely drawn. It had the peculiar fortune of calling forth 
memorable manifestations of bad feeling towards the poet, 
of tepid taste and supercilious vulgarity, from two persons 
high in the world of letters, — the articles of Jeffrey in the 
Edinburgh, of Walter Scott in the Quarterly. 

Here, again, Cromek's well-directed industry bore ofl^ I 
fear, the profits, to part of which another — Bums's widow — 
was entitled. Cromek might, indeed, plead in self-defence, 
the lapse of ten years during which no one else had had the 
pious zeal to glean the open field. 

The following summer, which was that of Blake's exhibi- 
tion, Cromek, encouraged by the success of his first literary 
venture, revisited Dumfries, with Stothard as a companion 
and with new schemes in his head. One was an enlarged 
and illustrated edition of Bums*s works, for which materials 
and drawing were now to be got together ; an enterprise 
which, in the sequel, failing health prevented his carrying 
out. The other was a Collection of Old Scottish Songs, 
such, especially, as had been the favourites of Bums, to- 
gether with the poet's notes already printed in the Reliques, 
and any other interesting scraps that could be picked up, 
could be begged, borrowed, or filched from various con- 
tributors. Two duodecimo volumes were got together, and, 
in the summer of 18 10, published under the above title, with 
three vignettes after Stothard, characteristically cut on wood 
by clever, hapless Luke Clennell, hereafter the tenant of a 
madhouse. 



MT. so~SS.] ENGRAVER CROMEK. 285 

During this visit of 1809, ^^^ bookmaker fell an easy victim 
to the hoax devised by a stalwart young stone-mason, after- 
wards known to fame as poet, novelist, biographer, and art 
critic. This was Allan Cunningham, then in his twenty-fifth 
year, earning eighteen shillings a week as a working mason. 
Cromek, we learn from Mr. Peter Cunningham's interesting 
introduction to his fathers collected Poems and Songs (1847), 
looked coldly on the mason's acknowledged verses, but caught 
eagerly at the idea of discoveries of old Songs, to be made 
among the Nithsdale peasantry. He greedily swallowed 
Allan's happy imitations, and ever * called out for more I ' 
On quitting Dumfries for Newman Street, he put a MS. book 
into Allan's hands with the modest written injunction, * To be 
^filled with old unpublished songs and ballads, with remarks 
'on them, historical and critical.' Another milch-cow has 
turned up ! 

Under pretence of collecting a world of previously unknown 
local song from the well-gleaned land of Bums and Scott, the 
young man, finding in Cromek (who had more natural taste 
than reading or acumen) a good subject for the cheat, and a 
willing one, palmed off, as undoubted originals, a whole desk- 
ful of his own verse, in slightly antique mould. Verse, it 
proved, bold, energetic, and stirring, or tender, sentimental, 
and graceful ; the best of modem Scottish songs and ballads 
since those of the Ayrshire peasant, though wide the interval ! 
Cromek, who reminds one of Burns's Johnson, of Musical 
Museum memory, a man of the same type, was, as usual, 
only too happy to avail himself of another's genius and 
labours ; too ready a recipient to be over-curious as to 
authenticity. But his letters to Cunningham reveal often 
pertinent doubts as to any high antiquity, even while he 
and the eager domestic circle in Newman Street, whom a 
northern raven was feeding, were receiving the poems with 
delighted wonder. * I have read these verses,' he writes of 
one song {She's gone to dwell in Heavett), * to my old mother, 
my wife, sister, and family, //// all our hearts ache,' Cromek 



286 LIFE OF WILUAM BLAKE. [1807— 1812. 

spared neither urging nor vague hints of a future 'kind 
return ' for all services, to extract from his young friend an 
original and striking volume of verse, and even copious prose 
notes, illustrative of local traditions. The poet was lured to 
Lx>ndon to help to push the volume through the press. 
Cromek gave him free quarters the while, and then left him 
to hire himself as a sculptor's mason, at six-and-twenty 
shillings a week. Subsequently Cromek spoke a good word 
for his proti^gi to Chantrey, young then, and with little to 
employ a second pair of hands, but who, some years later, 
took Allan as a workman. The engagement, as Chantre/s 
fortunes rose, transformed itself into a higher one, which 
lasted till the end of the sculptor's life. 

The volume was swelled to due dimensions by a few poems 
collected from other sources, and by plausible, loose-spun 
letter-press of Cromek*s own, — an ' Introduction ' and critical 

* Notices ' of the poems ; including grave details of how one 
had been taken down from the recitation of such and such 
' a young girl/ or ' worthy old man.' The Remains of NWis- 
dale and Galloway Song, printed by Bensley, was published 
by Cadell and Davies, at the latter end of 18 10, with a 
spirited woodcut vignette by Clennell, after Stothard. It 
is now scarce. 

Some general expressions of ' obligation to Mr. Allan 
Cunningham ' for ' guidance and interesting conversation,' 
was the sole acknowledgment accorded the gratis contributor 
(as author and collector) of the bulk and all the value of the 
volume. To which add a presentation copy, accompanied by 
the candid assurance, ' It has been a costly work, and I have 

* made nothing by it, but it is d — d good, let the critics say 

* what they will, and zuhcn it goes to a second edition, I will 

* give you something Jiandsome V The book was well received 
and sold well, but never went to a second edition ; our pub- 
lishers having taken care to make the first a large one. None 
of Cromek's clients grew sleek on his bounty. Nine years 
later, Cunningham's true share in the volume became kno\Mi. 



,ET. 50— SS^J ENGRAVER CROMER. 287 

And further cultivation of the profession (or trade sometimes) 
of literature, while he was still derk of the works to Chantiey, 
was lendefed easy to him on the strength of diat volume 
alone. 

On this, as on other occasicms of the kind, Cromek fulfilled 
to admiration his legitimate part as publisher. Wliile he 
picked the brains of his praUgis — ^Blake, Stothard, Cunnii^* 
ham — and stopped the pay, he could not help doing them 
incidental gcxxi senrice, in dragging them forward a stage 
with the public; a service whidi genial Allan Cunnii^ham 
seems alwa}^ to have remembered witii a kind of tenderness. 

One more Olustrative anecdote. 'Ciomek,' as Mr. Peter 
Cunningham mildly puts it, ' had rather lax ideas about wtaam 
' et iuvm when valuable autographs were laid before him. I 

* remember an instance of this, which I have heard my £ither 
' relate. Sir Walter Scott was talkii^ to him of some of the 
' diief curiosities he possessed at Abbotsford. ** I had cmce 
' (I am sorry to say once) an original letter from Ben Jonson 

* to Drummond of Hawthomden, all in Ben's own beautiful 
' handwriting : I never heard of another.'* My father men- 
' tioned one he had seen in London in CromeJis hands. Soott 
' used some strong expression, and added, '' The last person 
' I showed that letter to was Cromek, and I have never seen 
it since.*" Cromek had favoured Scott with a visit during 
his Dumfries tour of 1S09. 

After this unexpectedly vivid ray of evidence as to character 
Mr. Cromek's bare word cannot be taken, when he contradicts 
the positive assertion of ^mple, upright, if visionary Blake, 
that Cromek 'had actually commissioned him to paint the 
Pilgrimage before Stothard thought of his* We doubt the 
jocose turn given the denial — * that the order had been given 
in a vision for he never gave it,' will not serve. The order 
was a vivd voce one. And that, like a previous vivi voce 
agreement, is even easier to forget than the ownership of an 
autograph wordi, perhaps, ten pounds in the market Mr. 
Blake was not aware of the desirableness of getting 



288 LIFE OF WILUAM BLAKE. [1807—1811. 

a man's hand to a bargain. There is no palming off a 
signature as visionaiy. 

During these three years of book-making, Cromek had, as 
print-seller, published engraved portraits of Currie and of 
Walter Scott, after Raeburn. Meanwhile, the grand specula- 
tion of all, Schiavonetti*s engraving of Stothard's best picture, 
a subject new to art, as freshly and gracefully handled. — had 
been going on slowly, though not unprosperously. Ingenious 
Cromek made it pay its own expenses : in this way. 

Besides the stinted sixty pounds, the original price of the 
picture, Cromek, while it was in progress, and assuming daily 
new importance, had engaged to add another forty, in con- 
sideration of unforeseen labour and research, and of extra 
finish : this to be paid as soon as collections from the sub- 
scribers came in. But when the time for payment arrived, 
came excuses instead, on the score of heavy expenses incurred 
for advertising, exhibiting, &c. The picture itself the dexterous 
man sold for ;^300, some say ;f 500 ; but still excused himself, 
to quiet Stothard, on the old grounds. The poor artist never 
handled solid cash again from that quarter ; though, through 
his own exertions, he realised another hundred or two by 
repetitions of his masterpiece for various patrons. 

In June 18 10, just as Cromek had issued his Select Scottish 
Song's, the enterprise received its first check. The fine etching 
for the engraving was completed, but further progress was 
stayed by the failing health (from consumption) of the gifted 
Italian, to whose hands it had been committed On the 7th 
of that month, Schiavonetti, who had entered on life at 
beautiful Bassano, quitted it at Brompton, at the premature 
age of forty-five. Schiavonetti was to have had £Z^O for his 
engraving, but only lived to receive or entitle himself to ;t27S. 
In the following autumn,^-the same in which Blake's print of 
his Canterbury Pilgrimage, and Cromek's Nitlisdale and Gallo- 
way Song appeared, — the plate was confided to Engleheart, 
who worked on it from the 20th of September to the end of 
December, receiving some £^ But heavier troubles now 



.«T. 50—55.] ENGRAVER CROMEK. 289 

involved both print and proprietor. On Cromek, too, con- 
sumption laid its hand, arresting all his ingenious and innocent 
schemes, or, as Smith calls it, the long ' endeavour to live by 
speculating on the talents of others.* Lengthened visits to 
native Yorkshire failed to stay the inevitable course of his 
malady, and he returned to Newman Street, there to linger 
another year of forced inaction, during which poor Cromek 
and family, — comprising a wife, two young children, and a 
dependent sister, — ^were reduced to great straits. Doubtless, 
many a valuable autograph and Design had theil to be 
changed into cash. So that we have to pity the predacious 
Yorkshireman after all. On the 12th March, 18 12, at the 
age of forty-two, he went where be could jockey no more 
men nor artists. 

The widow had her fresh difficulties in realising the pro- 
perty her husband's scheming brain had created ; had first 
to raise money for the engraver to proceed with the Pilgrimage, 
The engraver then in view was Lewis Schiavonetti's brother, 
Niccol6, who had worked in Lewis's studio, and caught his 
manner. To finish the plate, he wanted three hundred and 
thirty guines, in three instalments, and fifteen months* time. 
To raise the first instalment, Mrs. Cromek parted with a good 
property, — sold the remainder and copyright of Blake*s Blair 
for £ 120, to the Ackermahns, who re^issued the book in 1 8 1 3, 
with biographic notices of Blair, Cromek, and Schiavonctti. 
Then Niccol6 followed in his brother's steps to an early grave. 
This last in the chain of sorrowful casualties caused further 
delays. The plate, — Mrs. Cromek borrowing the necessary 
money with difficulty from her father, — was at last, after 
having passed under the hands of three distinct engravers, 
finished by James Heath, or in his manufactory rather. 
Thence it eventually issued, a very much worse one for all 
these changes than when poor Lewis Schiavonetti*s failing 
hand had left it a brilliant, masterly etching. It had an 
extraordinary sale, as everybody knows, and proved exceed- 
ingly profitable to the widow. The long-cherished venture 

VOL. I. U 



290 LIFE OK WILLIAM BLAKE. [i8o7-*i8i2. 

turned out no despicable dower for a needy man, living by 
his wits, to leave her. As for the producer of the picture, 
who, artist-like, had forborne to press the adventurer in bis 
straits, or the widow in hers, his share in this great success 
was a certain number of copies of the print (commerdally 
useless to him), as an equivalent for the long-deferred £^ 
Such I gather, from Mrs. Bray's Life of Stoi/tard and other 
sources, to have been the fluctuating fortunes of the most 
popular of modern prints ; of an enterprise which, thanks to 
Cromek's indirect courses, excited, first and last, so much 
bitterness in the mind of Blake. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

YEARS OF DEEPENING NEGLECT. 1810-1817. [mt. 53—60,] 

• 

I HAVE mentioned that BIake*s Canterbury Pilgrimage (the 
fresco) was bought by Mr. Butts. Among the drawings 
executed, at this period, for the same constant patron, was 
a grandly conceived scene from the apocalyptic vision, the 
Whore of Babylon : — a colossal, sitting figfure, around whose 
head a wreath of figures issues from the golden cup of 
Abominations ; below, is gathered a group of kings and other 
arch offenders. This drawing (dated 1809) formed one in the 
numerous collection of Blake's works sold at Sotheby's by 
Mr. Butts' son, in 1852, and is now in the British Museum 
Print Room. There, also, two other drawings, and a large, 
though not complete, collection of Blake's illustrated books 
are now accessible to the public ; thanks to the well-directed 
zeal of the late Keeper, Mr. Carpenter. 

In these years, more than one of Blake*s old friends had 
dropped away. In December 1809 died, of asthma, Fuseli's 
ancient crony, Johnson, who had more than once extended 
to Blake what little countenance his hampered position, as 
a bookseller who must live to please, allowed. In March 
1 810 the friendly miniature painter, Ozias Humphrey, died. 
Hayley, as we foretold, lost sight of Blake. Mr. Butts, 
steady customer as he was, had already a house full of his 
works. 

December 26, 181 1, is the engraver's date affixed to a small 



292 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1810—1817. 

reduction, by Blake, of a portion of the Canterbury Pilgrim' 
age, — including eight of the principal figures in the left-hand 
comer, — ^which forms the frontispiece to a duodecimo volume, 
published at Newberry's famous shop in St Paul's Church- 
yard. The little book, with its small specimen or taste^ as 
as it were, of the original composition, was evidently intended 
to spread a knowledge of the larger engraving. The title 
runs thus: *The Prologue and Characters of Chaucer^s 

* Pilgrims, selected from the Canterbury Tales, intended to 
' illustrate a particular design of Mr. William Blake, which 
' is engraved by himself, and may be seen at Mr. Colnaghi's, 

* Cockspur Street ; at Mr. [James] Blake's, No. 28, Broad 
' Street, Golden Square ; and at the publisher's, Mr. Harris, 
' Bookseller, St. Paul's Churchyard. Price two shillings and 
sixpence. 181 2.' The brief introductory pre£Eice is not 
from Blake's hand ; possibly from that of the friendly peda- 
gogue, Malkin. ' To the genius and iancy of that celebrated 
' man, Mr. Blake,' writes the editor, after a notice of South- 
wark and the Tabard Inn, ' it occurred, that though the 
' names and habits of men altered by time, yet their 
' characters remained the same ; and as Chaucer had drawn 

* them four hundred years past, he mig^t as justly delineate 
' them at the present period, and by a pleasant picture, bring 
' to our imagination the merry company setting oiit upon 
' their journey. As the Canterbury Tales may be too long 
' a story for modern amusement, I have selected the Prologue 
' and the characters ' (the whole Introduction, in short) * that 
' the heads as represented by Mr. Blake may be compared 
' with the lineaments drawn by Chaucer, and I think the 

* merit of the artist will be acknowleged.' A double text 
is given on opposite pages : the original from Speght's edition 
of 1687, and a modernized version, or free translation, from 
Mr. Ogle's edition of 1741. The frontispiece is well engraved 
in Blake's style, with necessary and skilful variations from 
the large engraving ; the distribution of light being different, 
and some of the details improved, — the towers and spires 



MT.S3—60.] YEARS OF DEEPENING NEGLECT. 293 

in the background, for example. Towards the end of the 
volume, a pretty and characteristic, but very generalised little 
etching by Blake occurs, of a Gothic cathedral, among trees, 
meant probably for that of Canterbury. 

Few new patrons arose to fill the gaps I have recapitulated 
in the chosen circle of the old. All, it may be observed, 
were in the middle rank of life. There was nothing in 
William Blake's high and spiritual genius to command 
sympathy from a fastidious, poco curante aristocracy, still less 
from Majesty, in those days. ' Take them away ! take them 
away I' was the testy mandate of disquieted Royalty, on 
some drawings of Blake's being once shown to Geoi^e the 
Third. 

Among present friends may be mentioned Mr. Geoi^ 
Cumberland of Bristol. This gentleman did an important 
service to Blake, when he introduced him, about 18 13, to a 
young artist named John Linnell, who was to become the 
kindest friend and stay of the neglected man's declining 
years, and afterwards to be famous as one of our g^eat land- 
scape-painters. He was then, and till many a year later, 
industriously toiling at Portrait^ as a bread profession ; at 
miniatures, engraving — whatever, in short, he could get to do ; 
while he painted Lattdscape as an unremunerative luxury. 
The present brisk, not to say eager, demand for good modem 
pictures was not, in those years, even beginning. The in- 
timacy between the two arose from the younger artist apply- 
ing to the elder to help him over engravings then in hand, 
from portraits of his own. Such as were jointly undertaken 
in this way, Blake commenced, Linnell finished. 

Of the half-dozen years of Blake's life succeeding the 
exhibition in Broad Street, and the engravings of his Pilgrim- 
age, I find little or no remaining trace, except that he was 
still living in South Moulton Street, in his accustomed poverty, 
and, if possible, more than accustomed neglect. 

He was no longer at the pains or trivial cost, to him not 
trivial, of being even his own publisher ; of throwing off from 



294 LIP£ OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [iSio-1817. 

his copper-plate press Books of * Prophetic ' poetry and design, 
such as we saw him busied with, year by year, in Hercules 
Buildings. The Milton and the Jerusalem were the only ones 
thus issued from South Molton Street, and hb last in that 
class. Sibylline leaves of engraved writing were, however, 
now and then put forth ; such as that On Hcmei^s Poetry^ the 
LaocooH, the Ghost of AbeL As I have hinted, funds failed 
for the mere copper requisite to engrave lengthy productioiis 
like the Jeruscdem ; perhaps also, amid entire discouragement, 
the spirit for such weighty, bootless toil. He continued 
writing in the old strain till the end of his life, — ^wrote more, 
he declared himself, than Shakespeare and Milton put to- 
gether. Scores of MSS. were produced, which never got 
beyond MS., and have since been scattered, most of them 
destroyed or lost. He could find no publisher here for 
writing or design. Many an unsuccessful application to the 
trade, as to undertaking some book of his, he, in his time, had 
to make. ' Well, it is published elsewhere,' he, after such an 
one, would quietly say, 'and beautifully bound.' Let the 
reader construe such words with candour. Blake, by the 
way, talked little about ' posterity,' an emptier vision far than 
those on which his abstracted gaze was oft-times fixed. The 
invisible world, present to him even here, it was that to which 
his soul turned ; in it found refuge amid the slights of the 
outward, vulgar throng. 

Many of the almost numberless host of Blake's water* 
colour drawings, on high scriptural and poetic themes, or 
frescos, as he called those (even on paper) more richly coloured, 
and with more impasto than the rest, continued to be pro- 
duced ; some for Mr. Butts, some to lie on hand ; all n/ow 
widely dispersed, many undated, unhappily, though mostly 
signed. If men would but realise the possible value of a 
date / Still more numerous rough sketches were thrown off ; 
for Blake's hand was ceaselessly at work. His was inde- 
fatigable industry. He thought nothing of entering on such 
a task as writing out, with ornamental letters, a MS. Bible 



^T. 53-60.] YEARS OF DEEPENING NEGLECT. 295 

as a basis for illustration ; and actually commenced one, the 
last year of his life, for Mr. Linnell, getting as far as Genesis, 
chap. iv. verse 15. He cared not for recreation. Writing 
and design were his recreation from the task-work of engrav- 
ing. ' I don't understand what you mean by the want of 
a holiday/ he would tell his friends. Art was recreation 
enough for him. Work itself was pleasure, and any work, 
engraving, whilst he was at it, almost as much as design, — 
nay, even what, to another, would have been the irksome 
task of engraving bad pictures. He was an early riser, and 
worked steadily on, through health and sickness. Once, a 
young artist called and complained of being very ill : * What 
was he to do ? ' ' Oh ! ' said Blake, * I never stop for any- 
thing; I work on, whether ill or not' Throughout life, he 
was always, as Mrs. Blake truly described him, either reading, 
writing, or designing. For it was a tenet of his, that the 
inner world is the all-important ; that each man has a world 
within, greater than the external. Even while he engraved, 
he read, — as the plate-marks on his books testify. He never 
took walks for mere walkingfs sake, or for pleasure ; and 
could not sympathise with those wfab did. During one period, 
he, for two years together, never went out at all, except to 
the comer of the Court to fetch his porter. That in-doors 
' recreation ' of his held him spell-bound. So wholly did the 
topics on which he thought, or dreamed, absorb his mind 
that ' often,' Smith tells us, ' in the middle of the night he 
^ would^ after thinking deeply upon a particular subject, 
' leap from his bed and write for two hours or more.' 

Through his friend Linnell, Blake became acquainted with 
a new and sympathising circle of artists, which hereafter will 
include some very enthusiastic younger men. They, in part,^ 
filled the place of the old circle, now thinned by death and (in 
Stothard's case) by dissension. Of which, however, Flaxman 
and Fuseli remained ; men friendly to him personally, and 
just to his genius, though, as respects the former, Blake did 
not always choose to think so. Once in these, or later years. 



296 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1S10-1817. 

Cary (Lamb's Cary, translator of Dante) was talking with 
his friend Flaxman of the few EngUshmen who followed 
historical painting, enumerating Stothard^ Howard, and others. 
Flaxman mentioned a few more, and among them Blake. 
* But Blake is a wild enthusiast, isn't he ? ' Ever loyal to his 
friend, the sculptor drew himself up, half offended, saying, 
' Some think me an enthusiast.' 

Among Blake's new intimates were John Varley, Richter, 
and Holmes, the water-colour painters. From the works of 
the last two, Blake learned to add g^reater fulness and depth 
of colour to his drawings, such, indeed, as he, bred in the old 
school of slight tints, had hardly thought could have been 
developed in this branch of art. The painters in water- 
colours had, by this time, laid the foundation of that ex- 
cellence, which has become an English speciality. An 
adventurous little band of now mostly forgotten men, whom 
their great successors, Turner, Copley Fielding, De Wint, 
Prout, David Cox, have pushed from their stools, had, in 
1805 (tired of the Academy's cold shade), started their first 
separate Exhibition in Pall Mall, as a daring experiment. 

Buyers for coloured copies of the Songs of Innocence and 
Experience would generally be found by Blake's artist friends, 
when no other encouragement could. Task-work as an 
engraver, Flaxman, still wishful to serve as of old, obtained 
him, in 1816, from the Longmans: a kind office Blake did 
not take quite in good part. He would so far rather have 
been recommended as a designer! So long ago as 1793, the 
author of the Songs of Innocence had engraved Flaxman*s 
outlines to the Odyssey, as Piroli's substitute. Piroli's cn- 
gravin^^s of the sculptor's Aisc/tylus and Iliad appeared in 
1795 and 1796. And now, twenty-four years later, Blake, 
not a whit more prosperous with the world, had thankfully to 
engrave his friend's compositions from the Works and Days 
of Hcsiod, published in 1817. January ist, Blake dates his 
I)latcs. They are sweet and graceful compositions, har- 
monious and contenting so far as they go, but deficient in 



iET. 53-^] YEARS OF DEEPENING NEGLECT. 297 

force, as Blake himself thought Flaxman to have always been, 
and as many now think. Some touch of natural sorrow 
Blake might well feel at having to copy, where he could have 
invented with far more power and originality. For Blake 
was as full of ideas as Flaxman of manner^ a tender and 
eloquent, but borrowed, idiom. And while Flaxman relied 
on the extraneous help (or impediment T) of a conventional 
and in fact dead language or manner in art, and on 
archaeological niceties, Blake could address us, in his rude, 
unpolished way, in an universal one and appeal to the 
Imagination direct. 

During this period Blake engraved some plates for Rees' 
Encyclopedia^ illustrative of the articles on Armour and 
Sculpture, the latter written by Flaxman, I believe. One 
example selected was the Laocoon, which carried our artist 
to the Royal Academy's antique school, for the purpose of 
making a drawing from the cast of that g^oup. 'What ! you 
here, Meesther Blake ? ' said Keeper Fuseli ; ' we ought to 
come and learn of you, not you of us ! ' Blake took 
his place with the students, and exulted over his work, says 
Mr. Tatham, like a young disciple; meeting his old friend 
Fuseli's congratulations and kind remarks with cheerful, 
simple joy. 




CHAPTER XXVni. 

JOHN VARl.F.V AND THE VISIONARY HEADS. 1818— 18». 
[,CT. 61—63.] 

I HAVE mentioned John Varley as one in the new circle to 
which Mr. Linnell introduced Blake. Under Varley's roof, 
Linnell had lived, for a year, as pupil ; with William Hunt, 
a since famous name, as comrade. 

John Varley, one of the founders of the New School of 
Water-Colour Painting, a landscape designer of much delicacy 
and grace, was otherwise a remarkable man, of very pro- 
nounced chamcter and eccentricities ; a professional Astrologer 
in the nineteenth century, among other things,and a sincere one; 
earnestly practising judicial Astrology as an Art, and taking 
his regular fees of those who consulted him. He was the 
author of iiiuic llian one memorable nativity and jircdiction : 



^T. 61—63.] JOHN VARLEY AND THE VISIONARY HEADS. 299 

memorable, that is, for having come true in the sequel. And 
strange stories are told on this head ; such as that of Collins 
the artist, whose death came, to the day, as the stars had 
appointed. One man, to avoid his fate, lay in bed the whole 
day on which an accident had been foretold by Varley. 
Thinking himself safe by the evening, he came downstairs, 
stumbled over a coal-scuttle, sprained his ankle, and fulfilled 
the prediction. Scriven, the engraver, was wont to declare, 
that certain facts of a personal nature, which could be only 
known to himself, were nevertheless confided to his ear by 
Varley with every particular. Varley cast the nativities of 
James Ward the famous animal-painter^s children. So many 
of his predictions came true, their father, a man of strong, 
though peculiar, religious opinions, — for he, too, was 'a 
character,' — began to think the whole affair a sinful fore- 
stalling of God's will, and destroyed the nativities. Varle>' 
was a genial, kind-hearted man ; a disposition the grand 
dimensions of his person — ^which, when in a stooping posture, 
suggested to beholders the rear view of an elephant — well 
accorded with. Superstitious and credulous, he cultivated 
his own credulity, cherished a passion for the marvellous, and 
loved to have the evidence of his senses contradicted. Take 
an instance. Strange, ghostly noises had been heard at a 
friend's, to Varley's huge satisfaction. But interest and 
delight were exchanged for utter chagrin and disappointment 
when, on calling one day, eager to learn how the mystery pro- 
gressed, he was met by the unwelcome tidings : * Oh, we have 
discovered the cause — the cowl of the chimney I ' 

To such a man, Blake's habitual intercourse with the 
visionary world had special attractions. In his friend's stories 
of spiritual appearances, sight of which Varley could never 
share, however wishful, he placed implicit and literal credence. 
A particularly close intimacy arose between the two; and, 
during the last nine years of Blake's life, they became 
constant companions. 

At Varley's house, and under his own eye, were drawn 



300 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [l8i8— 182a 

those Visionary Heads, or Spiritual Portraits of remarkable 
characters, whereof all who have heard of Blake have heard 
something. Varlcy it was who encouraged Blake to take 
authentic sketches of certain among his most frequent 
spiritual visitants. The Visionary faculty was so much under 
control that, at the wish of a friend, he could summon before 
his abstracted gaze any of the familiar forms and faces he 
was asked for. This was during the favourable and befitting 
hours of night ; from nine or ten in the evening, until one or 
two, or perhaps three and four, o'clock in the morning; 
Varley sitting by, ' sometimes slumbering, and sometimes 
waking.' Varley would say, ' Draw me Moses,' or David ; or 
would call for a h'kcncss of Julius Csesar, or Cassibellaunus, 
or Edward the Third, or some other great historical person- 
age. Blake would answer, * There he isT and paper and 
pencil being at hand, he would begin drawing, with the 
utmost alacrity and composure, looking up from time to time 
as though he had a real sitter before him ; ingenuous Varley, 
meanwhile, straining wistful eyes into vacancy and seeing 
nothing, though he tried hard, and at first expected his faith 
and patience to be rewarded by a genuine apparition. A 
'vision 'had a very different signification with Blake to that 
it had in literal Varlcy's mind. 

Sometimes Blake had to wait for the Vision's appearance ; 
sometimes it would not come at call. At others, in the midst of 
his portrait, he would suddenly leave off, and, in his ordinary 
quiet tones and with the same matter-of-fact air another 
might say ' It rains,' would remark, * I can't go on, — it is 
gone ! I must wait till it returns ; ' or, ' It has moved. The 
mouth is gone ; ' or, ' he frowns ; he is displeased with my 
portrait of him : ' which seemed as if the Vision were looking 
over the artist's shoulder as well as sitting vis-d-vis for his 
likeness. The devil himself would politely sit in a chair to 
Blake, and innocently disappear ; which obliging conduct one 
would hardly have anticipated from the spirit of evil, with his 
well-known character for love of wanton mischief. 







^^^ 



r^ 






V 



( ---^-' 




■ 



-- '-' * 



\ 



I 
\ 



^:t. 61-63.] JOHN VARLEY AND THE VISIONARY HEADS. 3OI 

In sober daylight, criticisms were hazarded by the profane 
on the character or drawing of these or any of his- visions. 
•Oh, it's all right!' Blake would calmly reply; 'it must be 
right : I saw it so.' It did not signify what you said ; nothing 
could put him out : so assured was he that he, or rather his 
imagination, was right, and that what the latter revealed was 
implicitly to be relied on, — and this without any appearance 
of conceit or intrusiveness on his part. Yet critical friends 
would trace in all these heads the Blake mind and hand, — ^his 
receipt for a face : every artist has his own, his favourite idea, 
from which he may depart in the proportions, but seldom 
substantially. John Varley, however, could not be per- 
suaded to look at them from this merely rationalistic point 
of view. 

At these singular nocturnal sittings, Blake thus executed 
for Varley, in the latter's presence, some forty or fifty slight 
pencil sketches, of small size, of historical, nay, fabulous and 
even typical personages, summoned from the vasty deep of 
time, and 'seen in vision by Mr. Blake.' Varley, who ac- 
cepted all Blake said of them, added in writing the names, 
and in a few instances the day and hour they were seen. 
Thus : ' Wat Tyler ^ by Blake, from his spectre, as in the act of 
striking the tax-gatherer, drawn Oct. 30, 1819, i-h. P.M.' On 
another we read : ' The Man who built the Pyramids, Oct. 18, 
18 19, fifteen degrees of i, Cancer ascending' Another sketch 
is indorsed as ' Richard Cceur de Lion drawn from his spectre. 
W.Blake fecit, Oct\ 14, \^\% at quarter-past twelve, midnight! 
In fact, two are inscribed ' Richard Cceur de Lion,' and each is 
different. Which looks as if Varley misconstrued the seer at 
times, or as if the spirits were lying spirits, assuming different 
forms at will. Such would doubtless have been De Foe's 
reading, had he been gravely recording the fact. 

Most of the other Visionary Heads bear date August, 1820. 
Some fell into Mr. LinncH's hands and have remained there : 
the rest still belong to the Varley family. Remarkable per- 
formances these slight pencil drawings are, intrinsically, as 



302 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLARE. [1818— i8aa 

well as for the circumstances of their production : truly original 
and often subh'me. All are marked by a decisive, portrait-like 
character, and are in fact, evidently, literal portraits of what 
Blake's imaginative eye beheld. They are not seldom strik- 
ingly in unison with one*s notions of the characters of the 
men they purport to represent. Some are very fine, as the 
Bathsluba and the David, Of these two, beauty is, of course, 
the special attribute. William Wallace and King Edward the 
First have much force, and even grandeur. A remarkable 
one is that of King Edward the Third as he now exists in the 
other world according to his appearance to Mr Blake : his skull 
enlarged in the semblance of a crown, — swelling into a crown 
in fact, — for type and punishment of earthly tyranny, I sup- 
pose. Remarkable too are The Assassin lying dead at the 
feet of Edward the First in t/te Holy Land^ and the Portrait 
of a Man who instructed Mr. Blake in Paintings in his 
Dreams, 

Among the heads which Blake drew was one of King Saul, 
who, as the artist related, appeared to him in armour, and 
wearing a helmet of peculiar form and construction, which he 
could not, owing to the position of the spectre, see to delineate 
satisfactorily. The portrait was therefore left unfinished, till 
some months after, when King Saul vouchsafed a second 
sitting, and enabled Blake to complete his helmet ; which, 
with the armour, was pronounced, by those to whom the 
drawing was shown, sufficiently extraordinary. 

The ideal embodiment of supernatural things (even things 
so wild and mystic as some of these) by such a man — a man 
of mind and sense as well as of mere fancy — could not but 
be worth attention. And truly they have a strange coherence 
and meaning of their own. This is especially exemplified in 
one which is the most curious of all these Visionary Heads, 
and which has also been the most talked of, viz. the Ghost of 
a Flea or Personified Flea. Of it, John Varley, in that singular 
and now very scarce book, A Treatise on Zodiacal Phy- 
siognomy, published in 1828, gave the first and best account; 



MT. 61—63.] JOHN VARLEY AND THE VISIONARY HEADS. 303 

one which Southey, connoisseur in singularities and scarce 
books, thought worth quoting in TAe Doctor : — 

This spirit visited his (Blake's) imagination in such a figure as he 
never anticipated in an insect As I was anxious to make the most 
correct investigation in my power of the truth of these visions, on 
hearing of this spiritual apparition of a Flea, I asked him if he could 
draw for me the resemblance of what he saw. He instandy said, ' I 
see him now before me.' I therefore gave him paper and a pencil 
with which he drew the portrait of which a fac-simile is given in this 
number. I felt convinced, by his mode of proceeding, that he had a 
real image before him ; for he left off and began on another part of 
the paper to make a separate drawing of the mouth of the Flea, which 
the spirit having opened, he was prevented from proceeding with 
the first sketch till he had closed it. During the time occupied in 




GHOST OF A FLEA. 



304 



LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 



[iStS— iS«). 



completing the drawing, the Flea told him that all Beas were inhabited 
by the souls of such men as were by nature blood-thinty to excess, and 
were therefore providenciatly confined to the size and form of insects ; 
otherwise, were he himself, for instance, the size of x horse, he would 
depopulate a great portion of the country. 

An engraved outline of the Ghost of a Flea was given in 
the Zodiacal Physhgtiomy, and also of one other Visionary 
Head — that of the Constellation Cancer. The engraving of 
Tie Flea has been repeated in the A rt journal for August, 
1858, among the illustrations to a brief notice of Blake. The 
original pencil drawing is in Mr. Linnell's possession. Coloured 
copies of three of the Visionary Heads — Wallace, Edward 
t/ie First, and the Ghost of a Flea — were made for Varley, by 
Mr. Linnell. [See Annotated Catalogue, List II., Vol. II.] 




CHAPTER XXIX. 

OPINIONS : NOTES ON REYNOLDS. 1820. [XT. 63.] 

From internal evidence I judge 1820, or thereabout, to 
have been the date of the Notes to Reynold's Discourses^ 
already referred to. The present, therefore, is a fit place to 
give the reader a taste of them, 'eminently characteristic as 
they are of the vehement, one-sided enthusiast. In the same 
indignant strain as that in which the Notes b^an, commenting 
on the patronage of his day, is written on the fly-leaf the 
following curious doggrel : — 

Advice of the Popes who succeeded tlu Age of Raphael, 

Degrade first the Arts if you would mankind degrade ; 
Hire idiots to paint with cold light and hot shade; 
Give high price for the worst, leave the best in (fisgrace, 
And with labour of idleness fill every place. 

In plain prose he asks, ' Who will dare to say that '* polite 
'Art** is encouraged, or either wished or tolerated, in a 

• nation where the Society of Arts suffered Barry to give 
' them his labour for nothing ? A Society composed of the 
' flower of the English nobility and gentry, suffering an artist 
' to starve, while he really supported what they, under pre- 

• tence of encouraging, were endeavouring to depress ! Barry 

• told me that while he did that,* — painted, namely, the 

VOL. I. X 



306 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. £i82a 

picture in the Society's Great Room at the Adelphi, — * he 

* lived on bread and apples.' 

' O I Society for the Encouragement of Art I King and 

* Nobility of England, where have you hid Fuseli's Milton ? 

* Is Satan troubled at his exposure ? * alluding to Fuseli's 
Satan building the Bridge. At the words in Reynolds' 
Dedication to t/te King — 'royal liberality/ he exclaims^ 
' Liberality ! we want no liberality ! we want a fair price and 
' proportionate value, and a general demand for Art. Let 

* not that nation where less than nobility is the " reward " 
' pretend that Art is encouraged by that nation. Art is first 
' in intellect, and ought to be first in nations.' 

At page 1 20 Blake tells the following anecdote, bearing 
on orator Burke's vaunted patronage of Barry : * Barr>' 
' painted a picture for Burke equal to Raphael or Michael 
' Angclo, or any of the Italians (!). Burke used to show 
' this picture to his friends, and to say, "I gave twenty guineas 

* for this horrible daub, and if any one would give me * • " ' 
The remainder of the sentence has been cut oflT by the binder, 
but may easily be guessed, — 'Such was Burke's patronage of 
Art and Science.' A little further on Blake declares * the 

* neglect of Fuseli's Milton, in a country pretending to the 
' encouragement of Art, is a sufficient apology for my 

* vigorous indignation : if, indeed, the neglect of my own 

* powers had not been. Ought not the employers of fools 
' to be execrated in future ages i They will and SHALL ! 

* Foolish men 1 your own real greatness depends on the 

* encouragement of the Arts ; and your fall will depend on 
' their neglect and depression. What you fear is your own 

* interest. Leo the Tenth was advised not to encourage the 

* Arts. He was too wise to take this advice. The rich men 
*of England form themselves into a Society' (alluding to 
the British Institution, founded in 1805)/ a Society to sell^^A 

* not to buy, pictures. The artist who does not throw his 
' contempt on such trading Exhibitions does not know either 

* his own interest or his own duty — 



^T. 63.J OPINIONS : NOTES ON REYNOLDS. 307 

When nations grow old, 

The Arts grow cold, 

And Commerce settles on ever)' tree: 

And the poor and the old 

Can live upon gold, 

For all are bom poor. 

Aged sixty-thrte,^ 

Which concluding enigmatical line indicates, I presume, 
the age of the annotator at the date of writing. 

Again, still alluding to his own case: ^The inquiry iji 
' EngHtnd is, not whether a man has tialents and genius, but 
'whether h^ is passive and polite, and a virtuous ass, and 
'obedient to noblemen's opinions in art and science. If he 
' is, be is a good man ; if not, he must be starved/ 

In a highly personal strain of sarcastic allusion to the 

fav6ured portrait-painters of his era, Blake scribbles in 

verse — 

Some look to see the sweet outlines 
And beauteous forms that Love does wear; 
Some look to find out patches, paint. 
Bracelets and stays and powdered hair. 

And in even more eccentric vein : — 

When Sir Joshua Reynplds died, 
All nature was degraded ; 
The king dropped a tear 
Into the queen's ear. 
And all his pictures faded. (!) 

Angels of light make sorry wits — handle mere terrestrial 
weapons of sarcasm and humorous assault in a very clumsy; 
ineffectual manner. 

* I consider Reynolds* Discourses to the Royal Academy,' 
our annotator in plainer, if still startling words announces, 
'as the simulation of the hypocrite who smiles particularly 
'when he means to betray. His praise of Raphael is like 
' the hysteric smile of revenge ; his softness and candour the 

X 2 



3o8 UFE 0> WILLIAM BLAKE. [iSjo. 

'hidden trap and the poisoned feast He praises Michael 

* Angelo for qualities which Michael Angelo abhorred ; and 
'he blames Raphael for the only qualities which Raphael 
'valued. Whether Reynolds knew what he was doing is 
' nothing to me. The mischief is the same whether a man 
' does it ignorantly or knowingly. I always considered true 

* art and true artists to be particularly insulted and d^raded 
*by the reputation of these Discourses; as much as th^ 
'were degraded by the reputation of Reynolds' paintii^; 
' and that such artists as Reynolds are, at all times, hired by 
' Satan for the depression of art : a pretence of art to destxoy 
art.' A sufficiently decided opinion. 

At page 20, we read — * Mem. That I make a note on 
''sudden and irresistible approbation."' This threat is in 
reference to Sir Joshua's observations respecting the kindling 
effect of the great examples of Art on the student's mind. 
' How grrossly inconsistent with what he says somewhere on 
the Vatican ! * At page 17 of the First Discourse, where, 
after cautioning the student against following his ' vague and 
uncertain ideas of beauty/ and drawing the figure, not as it 
is, but as he fancies it ought to be, Reynolds adds that the 
habit of drawing correctly what we see gives the power of 
drawing correctly what we imagine : — * Excellent ! ' is Blake's 
comment ; and further on, * This is admirably said ! Why 
does he not always allow as much } ' Instances of praise 
seldom elicited. Once, indeed, he finds a passage wholly 
after his own heart : ' A firm and determined outline is one 
of the characteristics of the great style in painting.' Against 
which is written : * Here is a noble sentence ! a sentence 
which overthrows all his book.' 

On Sir Joshua's singular inconsistency in condemning 
generalization in one place, while approving and recommend* 
ing it in a hundred, he remarks : ' The contradictions in 
' Reynolds* Discourses are strong presumption that they arc 
' the work of several hands ; but this is no proof that 
• Reynolds did not write thcni. The man, either painter or 



/ET. 6s.] OPINIONS : NOTES ON REYNOLDS. 309 

* philosopher, who learns or acquires all he knows from 
•others, must be full of contradictions.' And elsewhere, 
more definitely, on this subject of generalization he says : 
' Real effect is making out the parts, and it is nothing else 
but that* 

Expressive of the special creed of Blake, to whom inven- 
tion and meaning were all in all, and of his low estimate of 
the great rhetoricians in painting, — Correggio, the Venetians, 
Rubens, and those whom we weak mortals have been wont to 
admire as great colourists, — is such a note as this, at the 
beginning of the Second Discourse : — * The laboured works of 
'journeymen employed by Correggio^ Titian, Veronese, and 
•all the Venetians, ought not to be shown to the young 
' artist as the works of original conception, any more than 
'the works of Strange, Bartolozzi, or WooUett, They are 
'works of manual labour/ 

Blake cherished his visionary tendency as an essential 
function of imagination. ' Mere enthusiasm,' he here de- 
clares, ' is the all in all.' And again, — ' The man who asserts 
' that there is no such thing as softness in art, and that ever>'- 
' thing is definite and determinate ' (which is what Blake was 
ever asserting), ' has not been told this by practice, but by 
' inspiration and vision ; because vision is determinate and 
'perfect and he copies tAat without fatigue. Everything 
* seen is definite and determinate. Softness is produced 
'by comparative strength and weakness, alone, in the 
' marking of the forms. I say these principles would never 
' be found out by the study of nature, without con- or in- 
'nate science.' 

With no more than justice he remarks on the very weakest 
feature in Sir Joshua*s system : * Reynolds* opinion was, that 
' genius may be taught, and that all pretence to inspiration is 
'a lie or deceit, to say the least of it. If it is deceit, the 
•^whole Bible is madness. This opinion' (of Sir Joshua's) 
' originates in the Greeks calling the Muses daughters of 
* Memorj\' In the same spirit, and with truth too. he of tlie 



3IO LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [i&2a 

Third Discoirse'cncrgtticMy avers: 'The folloy^'ing Discourse 
* is particularly interesting to blockheads, as it endeavours to 
'prove that there is no such thfng as inspiration, and that 
' any man of a plain understanding may, by thieving from 
'others, become a Michael Angelo.' 

So^ too, when Reynolds tells his hearers that ' enthusiastic 
admiration seldom promotes knowledge ; ' and pfx>ceeds to 
encourage the student who perceives in his mind * nothing of 
'that divine inspiration with which, he is told, so many others 
*^have been favoured' who 'never travelled to heaven to 
gather new ideas/ &c Blake answers : ' And such is the 
'coldness with which , Reynolds speaks! and such is his 
' enmity I Enthusiastic admiration is the first principle of 
'knowledge, and its last How he begins to degrade, to 
' deny, and to mock ! The man, who on examining his own 
' mind, finds nothing of inspiration, ought not to dare to be 
'an artist : he is a fool, and a cunning knave suited to the 
^purposes of evil demons. The man who never in his mind 
*and thought travelled to heaven, is no artiist. It is evident 
'^that Reynolds wished none but fools to be in the arts ; 
' and in order to this, he calls all others vague enthusiasts 
'or madmen. What has reasoning to do with the art of 
' painting ? * 

Characteristic opinions are the following: — 

' Knowledge of ideal beauty is not to be acquired. It is 
'born with us. Innate ideas are in every man, born with 
' him ; they are truly himself. The man who says that we 
' have no innate ideas must be a fool and knave ; having no 
'conscience, or injiaic science.' And yet it is a question 
metaphysicians have been discussing since metaphysics 
began. 

Again : ' One central form composed of all other forms 
* being granted, it does not therefore follow that all other 
' forms are deformity. All forms arc perfect in the poet's 
' mind : but these arc not abstracted or compounded from 
'nature; they are from imagination.' 



>«tr. 63.] OPINIONS: NOTES ON REYNOLDS. 3 II 

On some of the more technical points respecting art, Blake 
observes : ' No one can ever design till he has learned the 

* language of Art by making many finished copies both of 
' Nature and Art, and of whatever comes in his way, from 
'earliest childhood. The difference between a bad artist and 
' a good is, that the bad artist seems to copy a great deal, the 
' good one does copy a great deal.' 

* To generalize is to be an idiot. To particularize is the 
great distinction of merit.' 

* Servile copying is the great merit of copying. 
' Execution is the Chariot of Genius.' 

* Invention depends altogether upon execution or organiza- 

* tion. As that is right or wrong, so is the invention perfect 
'or imperfect Michael Angelo's art depends on Michael 

* Angelo's execution altogether.' 

' Grandeur of ideas is founded on precision of ideas.' 

*- Passion and expression are beauty itself. The face that 
'is incapable of passion and expression is deformity itself, 
' let it be painted and patched and praised and advertised for 
' ever. It .will be admired only by fools.' 

With strong reprobation our annotator breaks forth when 
Sir Joshua quotes Vasari to the effect that Albert Diirer 
'would have been one of the finest painters of his age, if,' 
&C. * Albert Diirer is not " would have been ! " Besides, 
' let them look at Gothic figures and Gothic buildings, and 
' not talk of " Dark Ages," or of any " Ages ! " Ages are 
' all equal, but genius is always above its Age.' 

' A sly d<^ ! ' ' He makes little concessions that he may 
take great advantages,' says Blake, dprofios of the remark 
that the Venetians, notwithstanding their surpassing ex- 
cellence as colourists, did not attain to the 'great style,' but, 
with 'splendour' of manner, concealed poverty of meaning. 
'If the Venetian's outline were right, his shadows would 
destroy it,' persists Blake. And finally, unable to give vent 
to the full measure of his contempt in plain prose, he breaks 
out into an epigram : — 



312 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKB. [iIm. 



On the Venetian Painter., 

He makes the lame to walk we all agree; 
But then he strives to blind all who can see! 



Many readers of the present day, who have teamed 
to almost worship the transcendant Venetiaa painteis — 
Giorgione, Titian, Tintoret, Veronese, not to q>eMc of the 
Bellini, Carpacdo, &c. — may be startled to note Blake's 
pertinacious scorn of them. Such readers will do well to 
remember that Blake, who had never been abroad, must have 
formed his idea of the Venetians almost wholly from en- 
gravings, and from what writers like Reynolds say of 
the characteristics of the school 'He had picked up his 
notions of Titian,* says Mr. Palmer, ' from picture-dealers* 
« Titians ! " ' 

When Reynolds speaks of Fresco as 'a mode of painting 
which excludes attention to minute elegancies,' Blake ob- 
serves, ' This is false. Fresah^^nixci^ is the most minute. It 
is like miniature-painting. A wall is a large ivory.' 

In the Fifth Discourse we are told that Raphael ' was never 
able ' (in his easel-pictures) ' to conquer perfectly that dry- 
' ness, or even littleness of manner, which he inherited from 
' his master.' Upon which, Blake : ' He who does not admire 
Raphael's execution does not even see Raphael ! ' And the 
assertion that Raphael owes the grandeur of his style, and 
much else, to Michael Angelo, is met by a favourite simile of 
Blake's : ' I believe this no more than I believe that the rose 
' teaches the lily how to grow, or that the apple teaches the 
' pear tree how to bear fruit.* 

Prefatory to the same Discourse Blake writes, 'Gains- 
' borough told a gentleman of rank and fortune that the 
'worst painters always chose the grandest subjects. I de- 
' sired the gentleman to set Gainsborough about one of 
' Raphael's grandest subjects, namely, Christ delivering the 
* Keys to St. Peter; and he would find that in Gainsbofough's 



AT. 63.1 OPINIONS: NOTES ON REYNOLDS. 313 

' hands it would be a vulgar subject of poor fishermen and a 
'journeyman carpenter. The following Discourse is written 
' with the same end in view Gainsborough had in making the 
' above assertion ; namely, to represent vulgar artists as the 
* models of executive merit.' 

And again : ' Real effect is making out the parts. Why 
'are we to be told that masters who could think, had not the 
'judgment to perform the inferior parts of art ? (as Reynolds 
' artfully calls them) ; that we are to learn to think from great 
'masters, and to perform from underlings — ^to learn to design 
' from Raphael, and to execute from Rubens ? ' 

Blake had, in truth, just personal grounds for speaking 
with indignant emphasis on this topic. * The lavish praise I 
' have received from all quarters, for invention and drawing," 
says he elsewhere, ' has generally been accompanied by this : 
' " He can conceive, but he cannot execute." This absurd 
'assertion has done, and may still do me, the greatest 
' mischief.' 

In the MS. note-book are some stray verses, manifestly the 
overflowings of the same mood as these notes. We shall be 
best able to appreciate their vigour of meaning, and tolerate 
the occasional hobbling of the verse, by taking them in 
connexion with the foregoing: — 

Raphael, sublime, majestic, graceful, wise, — 
His executive power must I despise? 
RabenSi low, vulgar, stupid, ignorant, — 
His power of execution I must grant * 

The cripple every step drudges and labours, 

And saysy 'Come, learo to walk of roe, good neighbours f 

Sir Joshua, in astonishment, cries out, 

'See what great labour springs firom modest doubt!' 

On Colourists. 

Call that the public voice which is their error? 
Like as a monkey, peeping in a mirror, 
Admireth all his colours brown and warm. 
And never once perceives his ugly form. 



314 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [182a 

On Sir Joshua again : — 

No real style of colouring now appears. 
Save thro' advertisements in the newspapers; 
Look there — ^you'U see Sir Joshua's colouring : 
Look at his pictures — all has taken wing. 

I think it may not be superfluous to take into account 
here, as we did when first alluding to these notes on Reynolds, 
all the sources of Blake's hostility towards the universally 
admired and extolled Prince of English Portrait-painting. 
The deepest of these was the honest contempt of a man with 
high spiritual aims for one whose goal, though honourable, 
and far above the common attainment, was at as widely 
different an altitude from Blake's as the mere earthly hill-top 
from the star which shines down upon it. Hence the entire 
antagonism of their views ; for such different ends must be 
reached by wholly different means. It is no invalidation of 
this high claim for Blake to add that the vivid contrast 
of their respective lots was another source ; for recognitum \s 
dear to every gifted man, however unworldly, however sincere 
his indifference to those goods of fortune which ordinarily 
accompany recognition, but are the mere accidents of which 
that is the precious substance. 

There was also, I am bound to confess (and it is not mucli 
to confess either), some personal antipathy in the case which 
added, doubtless, an extra dash of sharpness to the flavour of 
these pungent notes, and would seem to have originated in 
an interview (probably anterior to the one already described), 
at which Blake's experiences were not wholly of Sir Joshua's 

* blandness.' * Once I remember his talking to me of 
Reynolds,' writes a surviving friend : ' he became furious at 
' what the latter had dared to say of his early works. When 

* a very young man he had called on Reynolds to show him 

* some designs, and had been recommended to work with less 

* cxtravaj^ance and more simplicity, and to correct his draw- 
' ing. This Blake seemed to regard as an affront never to be 

forgotten. lie was very indignant when he spoke of it.' 



.CT. 63.J OBINIONS: NOTES ON BACON. 315 

At page 61 of the Notes we are introduced to another of 
Blake's antipathies : — * The " great Bacon/' as he is called (I 

* call him the little Bacon), says that everything must be done 

* by experiment. His first principle is unbelief, and yet here 
' he says that art must be produced without such method. 

* He is like Sir Joshua, full of self-contradiction and knavery.' 
Bacon, known to Blake by his Essays, was also Antichrist in 
his eye$. The high, worldly wisdom and courtier-like sagacity, 
not unmingled with politic craft, of those Essays were alien 
to the sympathies of the republican spiritualist, despite the 
imaginative form with which those qualities are clothed in 
Bacon's grand speech, — his stately, organ-like eloquence. 

The artist's copy of the Essays^ a duodecimo, published by 
Edwards, in 1798, is roughly annotated, in pencil, in a very 
characteristic, if very unreasonable, fashion ; marginal notes 
dating, I should say, during the latter years of Blake's life. 
We have frequent indignant comment and execration. The 
epithets 'fool,' *liar,' 'villain,' 'atheist,' nay, 'Satan,' and 
even (most singular of all) 'stupid,' are freely indulged in. 
There is in these notes, however, none of that leaven of real 
sense and acumen which tempers the violence of those on 
Reynolds. Bound by the interests of faithful biography, we 
will borrow a few characteristic sentences ; but only a few. 

' Good advice for Satan's kingdom,' is the inscription on 
the title-page. ' Is it true or is it false,' asks the annotator, 
' that the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God ? This is 
' certain : if what Bacon says is true, what Christ says is false. 
' If Cxsar is right, Christ is wrong, both in politics and re- 
' ligion, since they will divide themselves in two.' ' Everybody 
' knows,' he writes again, ' that this is epicurism and libertin- 

* ism, and yet everybody says that it is Christian philosophy. 
' How i3 this possible } Everybody must be a liar and de- 
' ceiver ? No ! ** Everybody " does not do this ; but the 
' hirelings of Kings and Courts, who made themselves " evcry- 
' body," and knowingly propagate falsehood. It was a 
' common opinion in the Court of Queen Elizabeth that 



3l6 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAK£« [iSaGk 

'knavery is wisdom. Cunning plotters were considered 
'as wise Machiavels.' 

Whatever Bacon may say, his singular annotator refuses to 
be pleased When the former innocently enough tells us, 'It 
' is great blasphemy to personate God, and bring him in 
* saying, "I will demand,"' &c, Blake answers: 'Did not Jesus 
' descend and become a servant ? The Prince of Darkness is 
' a gentleman and not a man : he is a Lord Chancellor.* 

Characteristic comment on the Essay on Virtue is this: 
' What do these knaves mean by virtue ? Do they mean war 
and its horrors, and its heroic villains?' 'Good thoughts,* 
says Bacon, ' are little better than good dreams/ ' Thought 
is act,' replies Blake : ' Christ's acts were nothing to Caesar's, 
if this is not so/ When Bacon, after the fashion of his age, 
says, ' The increase of any state must be upon the foreigner,' 
the artist, innocent of political economy though he be, has for 
once what would be generally considered now-a-days, in part, 
a just retort : ' The increase of a State, as of a man, is from 
' internal improvement or intellectual acquirement Man is 

* not improved by the hurt of another. States are not im- 
' proved at the expense of foreigners/ Again : ' Bacon calls 
' intellectual arts unmanly : and so they are for kings and 
' wars, and shall in the end annihilate them/ ' What is fortune 

* but an outward accident ? for a few years, sixty at the most, 
' and then gone ! ' 

' King James was Bacon's primum mobile^ exclaims the 
scornful Blake. And elsewhere his political prejudices explode 
in an amusing way. The philosopher speaks of 'mighty Princes:' 
— the ' Powers of Darkness/ responds Blake. Again : ' A 
tyrant is the worst disease, and the cause of all others ! ' 
And in the same spirit : * Everybody hates a king ! David 
' was afraid to say that the envy was upon a king : but is this 

* envy or indignation ? ' 

And here let the singular dialogue at cross-purposes end. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

DESIGNS TO PHILLIPS' 'PASTORALS.' i8ao— i8ii. [mt. 63-64.] 

Blake was, in 1 820—2 1 , employed by Dr. Thornton for some 
illustrations to the Doctor's School Virgil — Vii^il's Pastorals, 
that is. The result of the commission was a series of designs 
among the most beautiful and original of Blake s performances. 
These are the small woodcuts to Ambrose Phillips' imitation 
of Virgil's first Eclogue : designs simple, quaint, poetic, charged 
with the very spirit of pastoral. 

Dr. Thornton, son of Bonnell Thornton of humorous memory, 
colleague with Colman in The Connoisseur^ was a physician 
and botanist of note, in his day. He was the author of several 
very expensively illustrated folios and quartos on botany : A 
New Illustration of t/u Sexual System of Linnaus^ 1797 ; The 
Temple of Flora, or Garden of the Poet, Painter, and Philoso- 
pher, and other similar productions about botany in its 
picturesque aspect ; costly books, illustrated in colours, which 
impoverished their amiable projector. 

More successful in its generation was the Doctor's edition 
of the Pastorals of Virgil, * with a course of English reading 
adapted for schools,' and other explanatory helps. All which 
was designed to enable youth 'to acquire ideas as well as 
words ' with ' ease to the master and delight to the scholar.' 
One means to this end was ultimately added in a series of 
illustrative woodcuts. The first edition of 181 2 had none : 
illustrations were issued as a supplementary volume in 18 14. 



3l8 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1820—1821. 

In the second edition of 1819 the two were incorporated. In 
this third edition of 1821 the illustrations were increased to 
as many as two hundred and thirty, including these from 
Blake's hand. 

And hereby hangs a tale. Blake made twenty drawings 
to illustrate the Pastorals of Phillips, introduced by Thornton 
into his 'course* of Virgil reading. From these he executed 
seventeen wood blocks, the first he had ever cut, and, as they 
will prove, the last. The rough, unconventional work of a 
mere 'prentice hand to the art of wood -engraving, they are, 
in effect, vigorous and artist-like, recalling the doings of Albert 
Diirer and the early masters, whose aim was to give ideas, not 
pretty language. When he sent in these seventeen, the 
publishers, unused to so daring a style, were taken aback, 
and declared ' this man must do no more ; * nay, were for 
having all he had done re-cut by one of their regular hands. 
The very engravers received them with derision, crying out in 
the words of the critic, * This will never do.' Blake's merits, 
seldom wholly hidden from his artist contemporaries, were 
always impenetrably dark to the book and print selling 
genus. 

Dr. Thornton had, in his various undertakings, been munifi- 
cent to artists to an extent which, as we have said, brought 
him to poverty. But he had, himself, no knowledge of art, 
and, despite kind intentions, was disposed to take his pub- 
lishers' view. However, it fortunately happened that meeting 
one day several artists at Mr. Aders' table, — Lawrence, James 
Ward, Linnell, and others, — conversation fell on the Virgil. 
All present expressed warm admiration of Blake's art, and of 
those designs and woodcuts in particular. By such competent 
authority reassured, if also puzzled, the good Doctor began 
to think there must be more in them than he and his 
publishers could discern. The contemplated sacrifice of the 
blocks already cut was averted. The three other designs, 
however, had been engraved by another, nameless hand : those 
illustrative of the three ' comparisons ' in the last stanza but 



.«r. 63—64.] DESIGNS TO PHILLIPS' 'PASTORALS.' 319 

one of Phillips' Pastorals, Wretched, jejune caricatures of the 
beautiful originals they proved, scarce any trace of Blake 
being left. 

To conciliate the outraged arts, Dr. Thornton introduced 
the designs with an apology. *The illustrations of this 

* English Pastoral are by the famous Blake, the illustrator 

* of Young's Night Tlioughts^ and Blair's Grave ; who de- 
' signed and engraved them himself. This is mentioned as 
' they display less of art than of genius, and are much 

* admired by some eminent painters.' 

One of the designs, engraved by Blake, was re-cut among 
the engravers, who scrupled not, by way of showing what it 
ought to have been, to smooth down and conventionalize the 
design itself ; reducing a poetic, typical composition to mere 
commonplace, * to meet the public taste.' This as an earnest 
of what had been contemplated for the whole series. The 
amendment was not adopted by Thornton. Both versions 
may be seen in the A t/ienaum for January 21st, 1843; where, 
in the course of a very intelligent article on the true princi- 
ples of wood-engraving, they are introduced, with other cuts 
from Holbein, &c., to illustrate the writer's just argument : 
that * amid all drawbacks there exists a power in the work of 
the man of genius which no one but himself can utter fully;' 
and that ' there is an authentic manifestation of feeling in an 
' author's own work, which endears it to all who can sympathize 

* with art, and reconciles all its defects. Blake's rude work,' 
adds the critic, ' utterly without pretension, too, as an en- 
' graving, the merest attempt of a fresh apprentice, is a work 

* of genius ; whilst the latter ' — the doctored cut — * is but a 

* piece of smooth, tame mechanism.' 

The more these remarkable designs are seen, the more 
power do they exert over the mind. With few lines, and the 
simplest rudest hints of natural objects, they appeal to the 
imagination direct, not the memory ; setting before us con- 
densed, typical ideas. Strange to think of Blake, shut up in 
dingy, gardenless South Molton Street, designing such 



320 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [iSao^iSar. 

pastorals ! His mind must have been impreg^ted with 
rural images, enabling him, without immediate referenoe to 
Nature, to throw off these beautiful suggestions, so pastoral 
in feeh'ng, of Arcadian shepherds and their flocks, under the 
broad setting sun or tranquil moon. As Thornton's purpose 
was to give his young readers pictured images of his author^s 
words, the designs accompany the poem literally, and line for 
line. Thenot addresses Colinet, who leans, lonesome, against 
a tree, crook in hand, and sheep beside ; and so on. 

The original designs, in sepia, are of much delicacy and 
grace. Their expression and drawing are a little distorted in 
the transference to wood, even under Blake*s own hands. The 
blocks, moreover, proved, in the first instance, too wide for the 
page, and were, irrespective of the composition, summarily 
cut down to the requisite size by the publishers. They are 
now, together with the drawings, in the possession of Mr. 
Linnell, who has kindly permitted impressions from three of 
them to be taken for the present work. 

Dr. Thornton found further employment for Blake in etch- 
ings, scattered through the two volumes of 1821, from antique 
busts : Theocritus, Virgil, Augustus, Agrippa, Julius Caesar, 
Epicurus ; task-work Blake well and honestly performed. A 
drawing of his, from Poussin's -Polyphhne^ was put into By- 
field's hands to engrave ; which the latter did, poorly enough. 
As for the rest of the two hundred and thirty cuts, though 
executed by some of the best wood engravers of the time, 
they are, with the exception of one or two by Bewick and 
Thurston, of sinfgularly laughable calibre. The designers 
obviously thought they could not be too puerile in addressing 
boys. The old, rude woodcuts to CroxalFs jEsop are respect- 
able works of art, compared with these. It is a curious 
practical satire on the opinion of Blake the engravers had, 
that the book, which has become scarce, is seldom looked at 
now but for Blake's slight share in it. 



»., v!' 






CHAPTER XXXI. 

FOUNTAIN COURT : WAINWRIGHT. 1821— 1825. [mt. 64—68.] 

After seventeen years in South Molton Street, Blake, in 
1821, migrated to No. 3, Fountain Court, Strand, — a house 
kept by a brother-in-law named Baines. It was his final 
change of residence. Here, as in South Molton Street, his 
lodgings were not a 'garret,' as Allan Cunningham, with 
metaphorical flourish, describes them ; but now, as before, in 
the best part — the first floor— of a respectable house. Foun- 
tain Court, unknown by name, perhaps, to many who yet 
often pass it on their way through a great London artery, is a 
court lying a little out of the Strand, between it and the river, 
and approached by a dark narrow opening, or inclined plane, 
at the comer of Simpson's Tavern, and nearly opposite 
Exeter Hall. At one comer of the court, nearest the Strand, 
stands the Coal Hole Tavern, once the haunt of Edmund 
Kean and his * Wolf Club/ of claqueurs ; still in Blake's time 
a resort of the Thespian race; not then promoted to the 
less admirable notoriety it has, in our days, enjoyed. 

An old-fashioned respectable court in 1 821, as other similar 
streets in that neighbourhood still are — its red-brick houses 
with overhanging cornices, dating from the end of the seven- 
teenth and beginning of the eighteenth century — it is silent 
and sordid now ; having, like all Blake's abodes, suflered a 
decline of fortune. No. 3, then a clean red-brick house, is 
now a dirty stuccoed one, let out, as are all in the court, in 

VOL. I. Y 



322 



LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 



[1821^1825. 



single rooms to the labouring poor. That which was Blake's 
front room was lately in the market at four and sixpence a 
week, as an assiduous inquirer found. Of the back room, 
which Blake chiefly inhabited, a plan is given below and a 
picture in Chapter XXXIV. The whole place now wears that 
inexpressibly forlorn, squalid look houses, used for a lower 
purpose than the one for which they were built, always 
assume. There is an ancient timber and brick gateway under 
a lofty old house hard by ; and a few traces yet linger here 
and there, in bits of wall, &c., of the old Savoy Palace, 
destroyed to make way for the approaches to Waterloo 
Bridge, which had been opened just four years when Blake 
first came to the court. 



FrotttRoum tntrtoaking 
FouuUiH Court 

J, 




Those capable of feeling the beauty of Blake's design were, 
if anything, fewer at this period than they had ever been. 
Among these few numbered a man who was hereafter to 
acquire a sombre and terrible notoriety, — Thomas Griffiths 
Wainwright ; the lively magazine writer, fine-art critic, artist, 
man of pleasure, companion of poets and philosophers, and 
future murderer, secret poisoner of confidential friend and 
trustful sister-in-law. This was the Janus Weathercock of 
The London Magazine ; the * light-hearted Janus' of Charles 
Lamb. To the other anomalies of this unhappy man's career 
may be added the fact of his intimacy with William Blake, 



ALT. 64—68.] WAINWRIGIIT. 323 

whom he assisted by buying two or three of his expensive 
illustrated books. One among the best of the Son^s of 
Innocence and Experience I have seen, formerly belonged to 
Wainwright. Blake entertained, as did Lamb, Procter, and 
others of The London coterie, a kindness for him and 
his works. 

For this spiritual voluptuary, with the greedy senses, soft 
coat, and tiger heart, painted and exhibited as well as wrote. 
I trace him at the Academy in 1821, — Subject from Undine, 
ch, 6; in 1822 (year of Wilkie's Chelsea Pensioners), Paris in 
tlie Chamber of Helen; and in 1825, First Idea of a Scene 
from Der Freyschiitz, and a Sketch from Gerusalemme Liberata 
— both sketches, it is worth notice, as indicating uncertain 
application to the practice of art. He was then living at 
44, Great Marlborough Street. Mr. Palmer, one of Blake's 
young disciples in those days, well remembers a visit to the 
Academy in Blake's company, during which the latter pointed 
to a picture near the ceiling, by Wainwright, and spoke of 
it as 'very fine.* It was a scene from Walton's Angler, 
exhibited in 1823 or 4. 'While so many moments better 
'worthy to remain are fled,' writes Mr. Palmer to me, 'the 
' caprice of memory presents me with the image of Blake 

* looking up at Wainwright's picture ; Blake in his plain black 
' suit and r^2:///^r broad-brimmed, but not quakerish hat, stand- 
' ing so quietly among all the dressed-up, rustling, swelling 

* people, and myself thinking " How little you know w/to is 
' " among you ! " * 

During the first >^ars of T/ie London Magazine, 1820 — 23, 
Wainwright was a contributor, under various pseudonyms, of 
articles, not, as Talfourd mistakenly describes them, 'of mere 

* flashy assumption,' full of ' disdainful notices of living artists ; ' 
but articles of real literary merit and originality ; in a vein 
of partly feigned coxcombry and flippant impertinence, of 
wholly genuine sympathy with art (within orthodox limits), 
and- recognition of the real excellencies of the modems,— of 
Rctsch, of Stotharc}) for example, and of Etty, then a young 

Y 2 



"2- 



LU£ OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1821—182$. 



man. Tbe\' are articles by no means obsolete yet, even in 
their opinions ; in matter and style still fresh and readable ; 
standing out in \'i\*id contrast to the heavy common-place of 
the Editor's, furu: so stale and flat, in the same department 
of art-cntidsm. Thev attracted the notice and admiration 
of Lamb, whose personal regard he retained for many yiears ; 
of De Ouincey and of Procter — no mean judges. 

In one of these smart, harum-scarum articles (Sept. 1820), 
entitled * Mr. Janus Weathercock's Private Correspondence,' 
— a letter on topics so miscellaneous as Recent Bngravings, 
Pugilism, and Chapman's Homer,— occurs incidental refer- 
ence to Blake, the only one I have found in the series. 

* Talking of articles, my learned friend Dr. Tobias Ruddi- 

* combe, M.D. is, at my earnest entreaty, casting a tremendous 
' piece of ordnance, an eiglity-eight poutider ! which he proposeth 

* to fire off in your next It is an account of an ancient, newly 

* discovered, illuminated manuscript, which has to name 

"'^emsaUm ^% Emanation of t^r eSfant AIUoii'M!! It 

* contains a good deal anent one " Los^' who, it appears, is 
' now, and hath been from the Creation, the sole and four-fold 

* dominator of the celebrated city of Golgonooza ! The doctor 
' assures me that the redemption of mankind hangs on the 

* universal diffusion of the doctrines broached in this MS. 

* But, however, that isn't the subject of this scrinium, scroll, 

* or scrawl, or whatever you may call it.* 

This was probably a feeler of Wainwright's, to try Editor 
Scott's pulse as to a paper on Blake ; which, however, if 
written never appeared. Scott, who had drig^nally encouraged 
Wainwright to use the pen, was rather discomposed by his 
systematic impertinences and flightiness, and now began 

* rapping him over the knuckles,' cutting his articles down, 
and even refusing them admission; as is related in a sub- 
sequent contribution, one of Wainwright's last (Jan. 1823). 
After Scott's tragic end, in a preposterous duel with one of 
the rancorous Blackwood set, Wainwright had been put on 
the staff again, at the urgent representa^tions of Lamb and 



.r.T. 64—68.] WAINWRIGIIT. 325 

Procter. The paper in question, entitled Janus Weather- 
bound, contains some singularly interesting reminiscences — 
when we call to mind the man's subsequent history — of the 
writer's own previous career ; of John Scott himself and his 
sudden death-bed, of Lamb and his sister, and of other 
fellow-contributors to Tlie London, 

Talfourd,' in his Final Memorials of Lamb, has told the 
after story of Wainwright's life ; Bulwer, in his Lucretia, has 
worked it up into fiction ; and De Quincey, in his Autobio- 
graphic Sketches^ has thrown over it a gleam from the fitful 
torchlight of his vivifying imagination. From them we learn 
how expensive tastes for fine prints, rare books, articles of 
virtii^ on the one hand ; for mere elegant living on the other ; 
for combining, in short, the man about town and the man 
of refined taste and high sympathies, led him into inevitable 
money difficulties, into shifts of all kinds, and convulsive 
efforts to raise the wind. How, in 1830, about half a dozen 
years subsequent to his connexion with Tlie London and 
familiar intercourse with some of the most original men of 
that generation, he began insuring the life of a young and 
beautiful sister-in-law, for a short term, in various offices, to 
the amount of ;£^i8,ocx) in all. How he contrived that the 
poor girl, after having made a will in his favour, should die 
before the two years' term was out, without any appear- 
ance of foul play, — he 'using the, then little known, vegetable 
poison, strychnine^ now so familiar to newspaper readers. 
How the assurance offices instinctively disputed his claims ; 
and, after five years of ' the law's delay * in Chancery and two 
trials at common law, succeeded in their resistance on the 
technical point — that the insurance was not a bond fide one 
of the deceased's own effecting : the graver ground of objec- 
tion being waived, for want of conclusive evidence, though 
sufficient daylight was let in to warrant the darkest con- 
struction of Wainwright's r^eal character. How, after skulk- 
ing about France a few years, with a bottle of strychnine in 
his pocket, and, it is suspected, using the same on a confiding 



5J^ LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1821— 1825. 

friend or two, Wainwright was, in 1836, apprehended for 
lorgen- of his wife's trustee's signature (he had a wife and 
child' ; was tried, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to trans- 
portation for life : finally made base revelations to the 
otnces, enabling them to defeat the claims of his surviving 
sister-in-iaw. in the craven hope of mitigation of punishment ; 
in %\hich hope he \i"as decei\*ed. In the extremity of infamy 
and ^^Tetchedness, the somewhile associate of Coleridge, 
Blake. Lamb, still piqued himself on being the gentleman, 
though under a cloud; still claimed a soul sym|>athising 
With poetr\% philosophy, and all high things, showing no 
remorse. In Australia ended the ghastly motley of his life, 
a few \-ears a<:^o. 

Complete obli\non seems already to have overtaken all 

that Wainwright painted ; though we cannot doubt, from 

Blake's testimony, as reported by Mr. Palmer, that his works 

belonged, in whatever degree, to the class showing individual 

power. He seems to have practised painting as a means 

of subsistence in Australia during his last years, as well as 

at an earlier, and not yet hopeless, time in England. Of 

the first period of his painting, there is said to be some 

evidence in designs to an edition of Chamberlayne's poems, 

which I have sought for. but failed to find, at the British 

Museum ; and in the preface to which he is spoken of, I am 

told, as a young man of high hopes. To the last period 

belongs a portrait of the Hon. Miss Power, painted in 

Australia, which also is known to me by report, not by 

eyesight. Into any of the works of such a life it is difficult 

to search without feeling as if every step were taken among 

things dead and doomed. 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

INVENTIONS TO THE BOOK OF JOB, 1823—182$. [^T. 66-68.] 

As we have often to repeat, Blake was even more a 
neglected man in these days of Lawrence and Wilkie than 
he had been in those of Reynolds and Gainsborough. The 
majority of connoisseurs, a set of men who, to tell the truth, 
know little more about art, the vital part of it, have no quicker 
perception or deeper insight into its poetic and spiritual 
qualities than the mob of educated men, though they prate 
more : these were, as they still are, blind to his beauties. 
And this being so, the publishing class deserves no special 
blame for its blindness and timidity. 

Even his old friend Mr. Butts, a friend of more than thirty 
years* standing, the possessor of his best temperas and water- 
colour drawings, and of copies of all his engraved books, 
grew cool. The patron had often found it a hard matter 
not to offend the independent, wilful painter, ever the 
prouder for his poverty and neglect, always impracticable 
and extreme when ruffled or stroked the wrong way. The 
patron had himself begun to take offence at Blake's quick re- 
sentment of well-meant, if blunt, advice and at the unmeasured 
violence of his speech, when provoked by opposition. The 
wealthy merchant employed him but little now, and during 
the few remaining years of Blake's life they seldom met. 

One of the last, if not the very last, works bought by 
Mr. Butts of Blake, was the original series of twenty-one 
water-colour drawings or Inventions from the Book of Joby 
the longest and most important series executed since The 



328 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1823—1825. 

Grave^ in 1805 \ still loftier in theme, nobler in achievement ; 
most original and characteristic of all his productions. This 
set of drawings to Job has passed from Mr. Butts' son into 
the possession of Lord Houghton. 

It is to the credit of the Royal Academy that, at this 
conjuncture, Blake, in the year 1822, received from its funds 
a donati6n of £2^. Collins and Abraham Cooper recom- 
mended him for the grant ; Baily and Rd. Bone were the movers 
and seconders of the vote according it. The Forty of that day, 
as the testimonial in favour of the Grave showed, numbered 
many who could recognise Blake's high, artistic genius. 

With no remaining patrons for his design, few to employ 
him as an engraver, Blake, in age, was on the verge of want 
Grim poverty had, throughout life, stared him in the face. 
Throughout life he had calmly looked back into her eyes. 
For him she had no terrors. He would have been in actual 
want but for one friend, himself an artist, himself not over- 
burthened, at that time, with the gifts of Fortune ; who had, 
as other rising artists have — but in 1823 it was a still tougher 
struggle than in i860 — to toil hard for himself and family 
at often ungenial task-work. The drawings of Job had been 
borrowed from Mr. Butts to be shown to such as might seem 
likely to prove employers. From Mr. Linnell alone they 
drew a commission. He engaged Blake to execute and 
engrave a duplicate set. The agreement, recorded in writing 
in a business-like way, bears date 2Sth March, 1823. It was 
such an one as Blake had never set hand to before, nor 
could have obtained in any other quarter. Blake was to 
receive ;^ 100 for the designs and copyright, to be paid from 
time to time; and another £iQO out of the profits. No 
profits were realised by the engravings, their sale hardly 
covering expenses. But as the designs and stock of eng^v- 
ings remained with the purchaser, Mr. Linnell subsequently 
paid over, from time to time, ;£'50 more, making a total of 
;f 150, — the largest sum Blake had ever received for any one 
series. The drawings, the remainder of engravings and 



.€T. 66-6&] INVENTIONS TO THE BOOK OF JOB. 329 

plates, are still in the hands of this liberal friend, who dis- 
counted, as it were, Blake*s bill on posterit>', when none else 
would. While the Job was in prc^^ss, Blake received his 
money in the way handiest to him, — instalments of ^f 2 to 
£1 a week ; sums amply sufficient for all his ordinary wants, 
thanks to his modest manage and simple habits. More he 
would hardly have spent, if he had had it I have heard 
from one who himself had it from an authentic source, that 
but for this commission of Mr. LinnelFs, Blake's last years 
would have been employed in engraving a set of Morland's 
pig and poultry subjects ! 

The set of drawings made for Mr. Linnell varies much in 
detail from that for Mr. Butts, and is often finer. The 
engravings were still further altered ; faces in profile in the 
drawings are given full view in the prints, and so on. Both 
sets of designs are very finely drawn, and pure in colour ; 
necessarily very much finer than the prints. No artist can 
quite reproduce even his own drawings. Much must be lost 
by the way. 

The engravings are the best Blake ever did : vigorous, 
decisive, and, above all, in a style of expression in keeping 
with the designs, which the work of no other hand could 
have been in the case of conceptions so austere and primeval 
as these. Blake's manner of handling the graver had been 
advantageously modified since his acquaintance with Mr. 
Linnell. The latter had called his attention to the works of 
Albert Diirer, Marc Antonio, and the Italian's contemporary 
and disciple Bonosoni, a more elegant and facile, if less 
robust, Marc Antonio. From Bonosoni, especially, Blake 
gleaned much, and was led, on first becoming familiar with 
his work, to express a regret that he had been trained in 
the Basire school, wherein he had learned to work as a mere 
engraver, cross-hatching freely. He now became an artist, 
making every line tell. The results of this change of style 
are manifest in the engraved Inventions to Job, In them, too, 
Bonosoni's plan was adopted, of working wholly with the 



330 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1823—1825. 

graver and etching nothing ; so that the plates lose little by 
having a few hundred impressions taken off. 

These Inventions to the Book of Job, which may be regarded 
as the works of Blake's own hand, in which he most unre- 
servedly competes with others — belonging as they do in style 
to the accepted category of engraved designs — consist of 
twenty-one subjects on a considerably smaller scale than 
those in the Grave, each highly wrought in light and shade, 
and each surrounded by a border of allusive design and in- 
scription, executed in a slighter style than the subject itself. 
Perhaps this may fairly be pronounced, on the whole, the 
most remarkable series of prints on a scriptural theme 
which has appeared since the days of Albert Diirer and 
Rembrandt, widely differing, too, from.either. 

Except the Grave, these designs 'must be kno^vn to a 
larger circle than any other series by Blake ; and yet they are 
by no means so familiar as to render unnecessary such im- 
perfect reproduction of their intricate beauties as the scheme 
of this work made possible, or even the still more shadowy 
presentment of verbal description. 

The first among them shows us the patriarch Job worship- 
ping among his family under a mighty oak, surrounded by 
feeding flocks, range behind range, as far as the distant 
homestead, in a landscape glorified by setting sun and rising 
moon. 'Thus did Job continually,* the leading motto tells 
us. In the second plate we see the same persons grouped, 
still full of happiness and thanksgiving. But this is that day 
when the sons of God came to present themselves before the 
Lord, and Satan came also among them ; and above the 
happy group we see what they do not see, and know that 
power is given to Satan over all that Job has. Then in the 
two next subjects come the workings of that power ; the 
house falling on the slain feastcrs, and the messengers hurry- 
ing one after another to the lonely parents, still with fresh 
tidings of ruin. The fifth is a wonderful design. Job and hk 
wife still sit side by side, the closer for their misery^ and sfSOi 



l^ 



k\l :'. . '.'.. 



V -- ■ • r» -. - . — 

"" f'-^sl ■■■' ^ ~ ~ 






i..'. i,i- 






t..^ - 

Tri::o " - -- . 

C -"»-". 11- -- - 

the -. --- 1 - 

God '^tt.^ai,:2^ 
pit.' Tae -:r^ 
beginning tc dc : 
while the looi 
reproved. 



« - 



332 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1823— 1825. 

the Lord answers Job out of the whirlwind, dreadful in its 
resistless force, but full also of awakening life, and rich with 
lovely clinging spray. Under its influence. Job and his wife 
kneel and listen, with faces to which the blessing of thankful- 
ness has almost returned. In the next subject it shines forth 
fully present again, for now God Himself is speaking of His 
own omnipotence and right of judgment — of that day of 
creation ' when the morning stars sang together, and all the 
sons of God shouted for joy.' All that He says is brought 
before us, surrounding His own glorified Image ; while below, 
the hearers kneel rapt and ecstatic. This is a design which 
never has been surpassed in the whole range of Christian 
art. Very grand, too, is the next, where we see Behemoth, 
chief of the ways of God, and Leviathan, king over the 
children of pride. The sixteenth plate, to which we now 
come, is a proof of the clear dramatic sense with which Blake 
conceived the series as a whole. It is introduced in order 
to show us the defeat of Satan in his contest against Job's 
uprightness. Here, again, is the throned Creator among His 
angels, and beneath Him the Evil One falls with tremendous 
plummet-force ; Hell naked before his face, and Destruction 
without a covering. Job with his friends are present as awe- 
struck witnesses. In the design which follows. He who has 
chastened and consoled Job and his wife is seen to bestow 
His blessing on them ; while the three friends, against whom 

* His wrath is kindled,' cover their faces with fear and 
trembling. And now comes the acceptance of Job, who 
prays for his friends before an altar, from which a heart- 
shaped body of flame shoots upward into the sun itself ; the 
background showing a distant evening light through broad 
tree-stems — the most peaceful sight in the world. Then Job's 
kindred return to him, 'every one also gave him a piece 

* of money and every one an earring of gold/ Next he is seen 
relating his trials and mercies to the new daughters who were 
born to him — no women so fair in the land. And, lastly, 
the series culminates in a scene of music and rapturous joy, 



.€T. 66-6S.] IW'ENTIONS TO THE B>OK OF JOB 535 

which, contrasted with the calm thaTiksg-iving of the opening 
design, gloriously enbodies the words of it? text, * So the 
* Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning.' 
In these three last designs, I would specially direct attention 
to the exquisite beautj' of the female figures. Nodimg proves 
more thoroughly how free was the spiritualism of Blake's 
art from any ascetic tinge. These women are given to us no 
less noble in body than in soul : large-crcd, and lajge-armed 
also ; such as a ^nan may lo\^ with all his life. 

The angels (and espedalh* those in plate 14, * When tic 
' morning stars sang together/) may be equally dted as proofis 
of the same great distinctive quality. These are no flimsy, 
filmy creatures, drowan j on feather-bed wings, or smotbered 
in draperies. Here the utmost amount of vital power is 
the heavenly gloi>' they display : faces, bodies, and wings, all 
living and spoiling fire. And tbat tbe ascetic tendeiKy, 
here happily absent, is not the insepaiable penalty to be paid 
for a love of the Gothic forms of bcant3% is evident enough, 
when wc seen those fonns even^wiiere figMy mingling witi 
the artist's coocepdons, as tbe natural breatib of sacred art. 
With the true daring of gemus, be bas ei'en introduced a 
Gothic cathedral in the background of tbe wor^ppix^ group 
in plate i, as the shape in which the vtsy soul of worship is 
now for ever embodied for us. It is prctebly with tibtr ftnc 
intention ol symbolicng the imshaken jMty of Job under 
heavy affliction, that a simiar binlding is still seen pointing itt^ 
spires heavenward in the fo th plate, where: the messengers of 
ruin follow dose at one anol ker's heels. We nmy . perhaps, even 
conjecture that the shapde :>i£k3^s, like rud^ pagan caim«, 
which arc s catte ied over th( scenes of the 6nt.rm whid] 
refer to the gradual daria og of Jobs soul, hav*: be<^j 
introdnoed as Soma sngges e of earor d the Glutting out 
of hope. Ei^ef3r»lM:xe thr i>ug t i s we i tt with 

evidences of Gcdttc fedisg Sn e rea :6 I 

screen of trees in plate 2, n a t of < 

decorative < 12; 1 

and Bdian 1$ d «» 



334 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1823— 1825. 

medallion or wood-carving ; the trees, drawn always as they 
might be carved in the woodwork of an old church. Further 
instances of the same kind may be found in the curious sort 
of painted chamber, showing the themes of his discourse, in 
which Job addresses his daughters in plate 20 ; and in the 
soaring trumpets of plate 21, which might well be one of the 
rich conceptions of Luca della Robbia. 

Nothing has yet been said of the borders of illustrative 
design and inscription which surround each subject in the 
Job. These are slight in manner, but always thoughtful 
and appropriate, and often very beautiful Where Satan 
obtains power over Job, we see a terrible serpent twined 
round tree-stems among winding fires, while angels weep, 
but may not quench them. Fungi spring under baleful dews, 
while Job prays that the night may be solitary, and the 
day perish wherein he was bom. Trees stand and bow 
like ghosts, with bristling hair of branches, round the spirit 
which passed before the face of Eliphaz. Fine examples 
also are the prostrate rain-beaten tree in plate 13 ; and, in 
the next plate, the map of the days of creation. In plate 
18 (the sacrifice and acceptance of Job), Blake's palette 
and brushes are expressively introduced in the border, lying, 
as it were, on an altar- step beside the signature of his name. 
That which possesses the greatest charm is, perhaps, the 
border to plate 2. Here, at the base, are sheepfolds watched 
by shepherds : up the sides is a trellis, on whose lower rings 
birds sit upon their nests, while angels, on the higher ones, 
worship round flame and cloud, till it arches at the summit 
into a sky full of the written words of God. 

Such defects as exist in these designs are of the kind 
usual with Blake, but far less frequent than in his more 
wilful works ; indeed, many among them are entirely free 
from any damaging peculiarities. Intensely muscular figures, 
who surprise us by a sort of line round the throat, wrists, 
and ankles, but show no other sign of being draped, are 
certainly to be sometimes found here as elsewhere, but 
not many of them. The lifted arms and pointing arms in 



.ET. 66-68.] INVENTIONS TO THE BOOK OF JOB. 335 

plates 7 and 10 are pieces of mannerism to be regretted, the 
latter even seeming a reminiscence of Macbeth's Witches 
by Fuseli ; and a few other slight instances might, perhaps, 
be cited. But, on the whole, these are designs no less well 
and clearly considered, however highly imaginative, than 
the others in the small highest class of original engraved 
inventions, which comprises the works of Albert Diirer, of 
Rembrandt, of Hogarth, of Turner, of Cruikshank in his 
best time, and some few others. Like all these they are 
incisive and richly toned to a degree which can only be at- 
tained in engn^ving by the original inventor, and have equally 
a style of execution all their own. In spirit and character 
they are no less independent, having more real affinity, per- 
haps, with Orcagna than with any other of the greatest men. 
In their unison of natural study with imagination, they re- 
mind one decidedly of him ; and also of Giotto, himself the 
author of a now almost destroyed series of frescos from Job, 
in the Campo Santa at Pisa, which it would be interesting 
to compare, as far as possible, with these inventions of Blake. 
To the high artistic value of this series Mr. Ruskin has 
borne witness. In his Elements of Drawing for Beginners 
(1857), it is specified among the 'Things to be Studied.' 

* The Book of Job, engraved by himself (by Blake, that is), 
it is there said, * is of the highest rank in certain characters 

* of imagination and expression ; in the mode of obtaining 

* certain effects of light, it will also be a very useful example 
' to you. In expressing conditions of glaring and flickering 

* light, Blake is greater than Rembrandt' 

March 8th, 1825, was the publishing date on the plates ; 
the date by which Blake had expected to have finished them. 
But March, 1826, is the date given on the cover, and the 
correct one. The publishing price was three guineas ; proofs, 
five ; India paper proofs, six. The circulation was limited ; 
the mode of publication, for one thing, being a very quiet one. 

In April, 1825, another lingerer in the small knot of 
Blake's earliest friends was summoned away . by Death • 
Fuseli, whose health and bodily strength had, for the last 



336 



LIKE OF WILUAM BLAKE. 



[■S33— ibS- 



year or two, been failing, but not his faculties. He died ii 
his eighty-fourth year ; neglected by picture buyers, honoured 
by all in his own profession, by men of letters, by some 
among ' the great,' and not without a fair share of the goods 
of fortune. Of Fuseli Blake had always been a warm and 
generous admirer, and was wont to declare, ' This country 
' must advance two centuries in civilisation before it can 
'appredatc him.' Let us hope a few of that remarkable 
man's ori^'nal, if mannered and undisciplined, works nill 
survive the extraordinary and disproportiooed neglect which 
has exiled them to the cellar and the garret. . 




CHAPTER XXXIII. 

HAMPSTEAD • AND YOUTHFUL DISCIPLES. 1825—27. 

[i€T. 68—70.] 

The following letter is the first in a brief series preserved 
by Mr. Linnell, interesting as among the comparatively small 
number of Blake's writing extant Apart from those which 
were the result of his stay at Felpham, I think he wrote but 
few. It is to ' Mrs. Linnell, Collins's Farm, North End, 
Hampstead,' and is dated Tuesday, lUh October, 1825 : — 

Dear Madam, 

I HAVE had the pleasure to see Mr. Linnell set off safe 
in a very comfortable coach. And I may say I accompanied him 
part of the way on his journey in the coach. For we both got in, 
together with another passenger, and entered into conversation, 
when at length we found that we were all three proceeding on our 
journey. But as I had not paid, and did not wish to pay for or 
take so long a ride, we, with some difficulty, made the coachman 
understand that one of his passengers was unwilling to go, when 
he obligingly permitted me to get out — to my great joy. Hence, 
I am now enabled to tell you that I hope to see you on Sunday 
morning as usual, which I could not have done if they had taken 
me to Gloucester. 

I am, dear Madam, 

Yours Sincerely, 
William Blake. 

Blake was, at this period, in the habit, when well, of 
spending frequent happy Sundays at his friend's Hampstead 
VOL. I. z 



338 UFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1825—1827. 

Cottage, where he was received by host and hostess with 
the most cordial affection. Mr. Linnell's manner was as 
that of a son ; Mrs. Linnell was hospitable and kind, as 
ladies well know how to be to a valued friend. The children, 
whenever he was expected, were on the qui vive to catdi 
the first glimpse of him from afar. One of them, who has 
now children of her own, but still cherishes the old reverence 
for * Mr. Blake,' remembers thus watching for him when 
a little girl of five or six ; and how, as he walked over the 
brow of the hill and came within sight of the young ones, 
he would make a particular signal ; how Dr. Thornton, 
another friend and frequent visitor, would make a different 
one, — the Doctor taking off his hat and raising it on a stick. 
She remembers how Blake would take her on his knee, and 
recite children's stories to them all : recollects his kind 
manner; his putting her in the way of drawing, training 
her from his own doings. One day he brought up to Hamp- 
stead an early sketch-book, full of most singular things, 
as it seemed to the children. But, in the midst of them, 
they came upon a finished, pre-Raphaelite-like drawing of 
a grasshopper, with which they were delighted. 

Mr. Linnell had first taken lodgings at Hampstead in June, 
1822 ; and in March, 1824, moved his family to a farm-house 
there, part of which was let off as a separate habitation, as 
it is to this day. For Collins's Farm yet stands, altered by 
the erection of new out-buildings, and the loss of some of 
its trees, but not so much altered as most things in Hamp- 
stead. It is on the north, or countryward side, beyond the 
Heath, between North End and the * Spaniards.' North 
End, as every cockney knows, lies in a hollow over the 
Heath, — a cluster of villa residences, amid gardens and 
pleasure-grounds, their roofs embosomed in trees. As you 
walk from it towards the ' Spaniards,' a winding lane to the 
left brings you back into the same high road. A little off 
this, there is another winding way, in the middle of which 
stands Collins's Farm, at the bottom of another hollow. The 



JET. 68— 7a] HAMPSTEAD ; AND YOUTHFUL DISCIPLES. 339 

house, an old one, looks out in front upon the heathery hill- 
side; at back, upon meadows and hedgerows, in summer one 
monotonous tint of heavy green. From the hill-side, the 
well-pitched red roof of the farm-house picturesquely peeps 
out among the trees below. To London children the place 
must have been a little Paradise. Blake, too, notwithstanding 
a theoretic dislike to Hampstead, practically enjoyed his 
visits. Mr. LinnelFs part of the house, — a later erection 
than the rest, and of lower height, with a separate entrance 
through the garden which stretches beside, — was small and 
humble, containing only five rooms. In front it commanded 
a pleasant southern aspect. Blake, it is still remembered, 
would often stand at the door, gazing, in tranquil reverie* 
across the garden toward the gorse-clad hill. He liked 
sitting in the arbour, at the bottom of the long garden, or 
wklking up and down the same at dusk, while the cows, 
munching their evening meal, were audible from the farm- 
yard on the other side the hedge. He was very fond of 
hearing Mrs. Linnell sing Scottish songs, and would sit by 
the pianoforte, tears falling from his eyes, while he listened 
to the Bofder Melody to which the song is set com- 
mencing — 

*0 Nancy's hair is yellow as gowd. 
And her een as the lift are blue.' 

To simple national melodies Blake was very impression- 
able, though not so to music of more complicated structure. 
He himself still sang, in a voice tremulous with age, some- 
times old ballads, sometimes his own songs, to melodies of 
his own. 

The modest interior of the rustic cottage was rendered 
delightful, as artists can generally render their houses, by 
tasteful fitting up and by fine prints and pictures hanging 
on the walls. Many an interesting friendly gathering took 
place there, comprising often a complete circle of what are 
vulgarly called 'characters.* Sometimes, for instance, it 

Z 2 



340 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [182$— iSilL 

would be, besides Blake and Mr. Linndl, Dr. Thornton, Jdn 
Varley, and his brother Cornelius, — ^the latter living still. 
well known in the scientific i»-orld and a man devcited to 
the ingenious arts ; all, as one of them confessed to me, men 
' who did not propose to themselves to be as others^* but to 
follow out views of their ovm. Sometimes Mulready wooU 
be of the company : Richter also— a name familiar to 
frequenters of the old Water-colour Society's exhibitions— 
who was a fervent disciple of Emanuel Kant, and very food 
of iterating the metaphysical dogma of the non-existence 
of matter. Of Richter's, by the way, still survives, in odd 
comers of the world, a curious thin octavo, published by 
Ackermann, in 181 7. I can here mily quote the character- 
istic title of this (mentally) very jdiysiognomic brochun^ 
which runs thus : — ' Daylight. A recent Discovery in the Art 

* of Painting. With Hints an the Philoscphy of the Fine Arts, 

* and on tliat of ttu Human Mind, as first dissected by JSmamtel 

* Kant.* A meeting at twilight, in the British Institution, 
of the Old Masters* Ghosts is the artifice for enunciating, 
in dialogue, the author's views as to representing on canvas 
the true ' perpendicular light from the sky.* This dialc^^e 
occupies thirteen octavo pages ; besides which there are fifty- 
two pages of notes, discourse at large on the same subject, 
' and on the human mind, as first dissected by Kant.' Such 
hobbies as these offer a piquant contrast to those smooth, 
Book-of-Beauty faces exhibition-goers may remember as the 
staple of the old man's doings in later years. 

More often the circle at Hampstead would be Blake, 
Lionel!, and John Varley. A curiously contrasted trio— as 
an eye-witness reports — to look upon in animated converse : 
Blake, with his quiet manner, his fine head — broad above, 
small below ; Varley's the reverse : Varley, stout and heavy, 
yet active, and in exuberant spirits — ingenious, diffuse, 
poetical, eager, talking as fast as possible : Linnell, original, 
brilliant, with strongly marked character, and filial manner 
towards Blake, assuming nothing of the patron, forbearing to 



JET. 6S-70.] HAMPSTEAD ; AND YOUTHFUL DISCIPLES. 34I 

contradict his stories of his visions, &c., but trying to make 
reason out of them. Varley found them explicable astro- 
logically — * Sagittarius crossing Taurus * — and the like ; while 
Blake, on his part, believed in his friend s astrology, to a 
certain extent. He thought you could oppose and conquer 
the stars. A stranger, hearing the three talk of spirits and 
astrology in this matter-of-fact way, would have been mysti- 
fied. Varley was a terrible assertor, bearing down all before 
him by mere force of loquacity ; though not learned or 
deeply grounded or even very original in his astrology, which 
he had caught up at second hand. But there was stuff in 
him. His conversation was powerful, and by it he exerted a 
strong influence on ingenuous minds — a power he lost in his 
books. Writing was an art he had not mastered Strange 
books they are : his Treatise on Zodiacal Physiogriomy (8vo. 
1828), Observations on Colouring and Sketching from Nature 
(8vo, 1830), and Practical Treatise on Perspective (folio). All 
are dry and barren, wholly lacking the piquancy which 
belonged to his character and conversation. Varley was 
twenty years younger than Blake ; like him was bom in 
humble circumstances, and in humble circumstances died 
(in 1842). For though, at one time, his professions, as 
artist, teacher, and astrologer, procured him a handsome 
income, his former helpmate had dissipated as fast as he 
could earn. Thrice in his life, too, he was 'burnt out' 
The portfolio of drawings he used latterly to .carry about 
yielded anything but affluence. Delicate transcripts of clos- 
ing day, — bars of purple cloud crossing the light being his 
favourite effect, — these drawings often had a peculiar 
fascination, though they became very mannered at last; 
conventional reminiscences of Varley himself rather than 
of nature. 

In those days stage coaches started for Hampstead in the 
morning, and returned to London in the evening. Blake 
however, used to walk up from town by a road which was 
not, as now, one continuous line of houses. Generally, too, 



342 LIKE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1825— 1S27. 

he walked back at night ; his host sending a servant with a - 
lantern to guide him through the darkness to * the village.' 
On his way from Fountain Court to North £nd» he would 
often call on a young artist, also a frequent visitor of Hr. 
Linnell's,— one day to be more nearly related, — and the two 
would walk up together. This was Mr. Samuel Palmer, now 
an accomplished Painter of poetic landscape, well known to 
visitors of the (old) Water-colour Society's Exhibitions; then 
a stripling and an enthusiastic disciple of Blake's. To him 
we are already indebted for many a reminiscence; that 
picture of Blake standing before a canvas of murderer 
Wain Wright's, for one. The acquaintance commenced when 
Blake was about midway in the task of engraving his yob. 

* At my never-to-be forgotten first interview/ 'says Mr. 
Palmer, * the copper of the first plate — ** Thus did Job con- 
'tinually" — was lying on the table where he had been work- 
' ing at it. How lovely it looked by the lamplight, strained 

* through the tissue paper ! ' 

Among the young painters attracted at this period towards 
Blake was Frederick Tatham, to whose father — the architect 
« — Mr. Linnell had introduced his friend. Mr. Richmond, the 
now distinguished portrait-painter, was another. As a lad of 
sixteen, he met Blake one day at the elder Tatham's, and was 
allowed to walk home with him. To the boy, it was *as if 
he were walking with the prophet Isaiah ; * for he had heard 
much of Blake, greatly admired all he had heard, and all he 
had seen of his designs. The prophet talked fully and 
kindly, freely opening his mind, as was his wont with the 
young — with men of eighteen or twenty say — even more 
freely and favourably, perhaps, than with their elders. There 
was more community of sentiment, — a bond of sympathy. 
He was not provoked by them to utter extravagances and 
extreme opinions. On this occasion he talked of his own 
youth, and of his visions. Just as Mr. Palmer speaks of 
Blake's tolerant kindness towards young men, Mr. Richmond 
relates that, in their intercourse, he wou^d himself, as young 



^T. 68—70.1 HAMPSTEAD ; AND YOUTHFUL DISCIPLES. 343 

men are prone to do, boldly argue and disagree, as though 
they were equals in years and wisdom, and Blake would take 
it all good-humouredly. * Never,' adds Mr. Richmond, ' have 

* I known an artist so spiritual, so devoted, so single-minded, 

* or cherishing imagination as he did/ Once, the young artist 
finding his invention flag during a whole fortnight, went to 
Blake, as was his wont, for some advice or comfort. He 
found him sitting at tea with his wife. He related his dis- 
tress ; how he felt deserted by the power of invention. To 
his astonishment, Blake turned to his wife suddenly and said : 

* It is just so with us, is it not, for weeks together, when the 

* visions forsake us ? What do we do then, Kate ? ' * We 

* kneel down and pray, Mr. Blake.* 

Another young artist to seek out Blake and sit at his feet 
was Mr. Finch/ for many years a member of the (old) Society 
of Water-colour Painters. As a boy, he had heard again and 
again of Blake from John Varley, whose pupil he was for five 
years, and his imagination had been much excited by what 
he had heard. For once, expectation was fulfilled. In Mr. 
Finch's own felicitous words, Blake 'struck him as a new 
' kind of fnan, wholly original, and in all things. Whereas 

* most men are at the pains of softening down their extreme 
' opinions, not to shock those of others, it was the contrary 
' with him.* Yes ! he tmis a new kind of man ; and hence his 
was a new kind of art, and a new kind of poetry. 

Edward Calvert was another attached friend of this period. 
He introduced himself to Blake, was received most kindly, 
as if he had been an old friend ; and thereafter enjoyed the 
privilege of calling on and walking with him. It is a touch- 
ing sight to summon before one's mental eyes, this of the 
grey-haired visionary, opening his soul to these fresh-hearted 
youths. They all came to know one another, and would 
often meet and talk over their views on art ; other views than 
were commonly current in that era of Lawrence, Shee, and 
the rest. Blake and his house used to be familiarly spoken of 

' See F. O. Finch, In Memoriam, Vol. II. 



344 l-IFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [182$— 1827- 

among them as ' The House of the Interpreter.' I can still trace 
something of the mystic Poet's influence, surviving the lapse 
of more than thirty years, in all who ever knew and loved 
Blake ; as of men who once in their lives had, as it were; 
entertained an angel not unawares. 

Let us pause and listen to the reminiscences of one of 
these friends of Blake's later years. They are embodied io 
a Letter on Blake, kindly addressed by Mr. Samuel Palmer to 
the present writer when first commencing the collection of 
materials for this biography, some years before they b^[an 
to take shape : — 

'Kensington, Amg» ^3rd, 1855. 

My Dear Sir, 

I regret that the lapse of time has made it difficult to recall 
many interesting particulars respecting Mr. Blake, of whom I can give 
you no connected account ; nothing more, in fact, than the fragments 
of memory ; but the general impression of what is great remains 
with us, although its details may be confused; and Blake, once 
known, could never be forgotten. 

His knowledge was various and extensive, and his conversation 
so nervous and brilliant, that, if recorded at the time, it would now 
have thrown much light upon his character, and in no way lessened 
him in the estimation of those. who know him only by his works. 

In him you saw at once the Maker, the Inventor ; one of the few 
in any age : a fitting companion for Dante. He was eneigy itself, 
and shed around him a kindling influence ; an atmosphere of life, 
full of the ideal. To walk with him in the country was to perceive 
the soul of beauty through the forms of matter; and the high, 
gloomy buildings between which, from his study window, a glimpse 
was caught of the Thames and the Surrey shore, assumed a kind 
of grandeur from the man dwelling near them. Those may laugh 
at this who never knew such an one as Blake ; but of him it is the 
simple truth. 

He was a man without a mask ; his aim single, his path straight- 
forwards, and his wants few ; so he was free, noble, and happy. 

His voice and manner were quiet, yet all awake with intellect. 
Above the tricks of littleness, or the least taint of affectation, with 
a natural dignity which few would have dared to affront, he was 
gentle and affectionate, loving to be with little children, and to talk 



iET. 68—70.] HAMPSTEAD ; AND YOUTHFUL DISCIPLES. 345 

about them. " That is heaven," he said to a friend, leading him to 
the window, and pointing to a group of them at play. 

Declining, like Socrates, whom in many respects he resembled, 
the common objects of ambition, and pitying the scuffle to obtain 
them, he thought that no one could~t)e truly great who had not 
humbled himself *' even as a little child." This was a subject he 
loved to dwell upon, and to illustrate. 

His eye was the finest I ever saw : brilliant, but not roving, clear 
and intent, yet susceptible; it flashed with genius, or melted in 
tenderness. It could also be terrible. Cunning and falsehood 
quailed under it, but it was never busy with them. It pierced them, 
and turned away. Nor was the mouth less expressive; the lips 
flexible and quivering with feeling. I can yet recall it when, on one 
occasion, dwelling upon the exquisite beauty of the parable of the 
Prodigal, he began to repeat a part of it ; but at the words, " When 
he was yet a great way off, his father saw him,'' could go no further ; 
his voice faltered, and he was in tears. 

I can never forget the evening when Mr. Linnell took me to 
Blake's house, nor the quiet hours passed with him in the examination 
of antique gems, choice pictures, and Italian prints of the sixteenth 
century. Those who may have read some strange passages in his 
Calalogue^ written in irritation, and probably in haste, will be. sur- 
prised to hear, that in conversation he was anything but sectarian 
or exclusive, finding sources of delight throughout the whole range 
of art ; while, as a critic, he was judicious and discriminating. 

No man more admired Albert Diirer; yet, after looking over 
a number of his designs, he would become a little angry with some 
of the draperies, as not governed by the forms of the limbs, nor 
assisting to express their action; contrasting them in this respect 
with the draped antique, in which it was hard to tell whether he 
was more delighted with the general design, or with the exquisite 
finish and the depth of the chiselling; in works of the highest 
class, no mere adjuncts, but the last development of the design 
itsel£ 

He united freedom of judgment with reverence for all that is 
great He did not look out for the works of the purest ages, but 
for the purest works of every age and country — Athens or Rhodes, 
Tuscany or Britain; but no authority or popular consent could 
influence him against his deliberate judgment. Thus he thought 
with Fuseli and Flaxman that the Elgin Theseus, however full of 
antique savour, could not, as ideal form, rank with the very finest 



346 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLARE. [1825-1S27. 

relics of antiquity. Nor, on the other hand, did the univenal 
neglect of Fuseli in any degree lessen his admiration of his beat 
works. 

He fervently loved the early Christian ait» and dwelt with 
peculiar affection on the memory of Fra Angelioo, often speaking ot 
him as an inspired inventor and as a saint ; but when he approached 
Michael Angelo, the Last Supper of Da Vindi the Torso BeWidere, 
and some of the inventions preserved in the Antique Gema^ all his 
powers were concentrated in admiration. 

When looking at the heads of the apostles in the copy <^ the 
Last Supper at the Royal Academy, he remarked of all but Judas, 
" Every one looks as if he had conquered the natural man." He 
was equally ready to admire a contemporary and a rivaL Fusdi's 
picture of Satan building the Bridge aver Chaos he ranked with the 
grandest efforts of imaginative art, and said that we were two 
centuries behind the civilisation which would enable us to estimate 
his ^gisthus. 

He was fond of the works of St. Theresa, and often quoted 
them with other writers on the interior life. Among his eccentricities 
will, no doubt, be numbered his preference for ecclesiastical govern* 
ments. He used to ask how it was that we heard so much of priest- 
craft and so little of soldier-craft and lawyer-craft. The Bible, he 
said, was the book of liberty, and Christianity the sole regenerator 
of nations. In politics a Platonist, he put no trust in demagogues. 
His ideal home was with Fra Angelico : a little later he might have 
been a reformer, but after the fashion of Savonarola. 

He loved to speak of the years spent by Michael Angelo, with- 
out earthly reward, and solely for the love of God, in the building of 
St. Peter's, and of the wondrous architects of our cathedrals. In 
Westminster Abbey were his earliest and most sacred recollections. 
I asked him how he would like to paint on glass, for the great 
west window, his Sons of God shouting for ^oy, from his designs 
in the J^ob, He said, after a pause, "I could do it!" kmdling 
at the thought. 

Centuries could not separate him in spirit from the artists who 
went about our land, pitching their tents by the morass or the forest 
side, to build those sanctuaries that now lie ruined amidst the 
fertility which they called into being. 

His mind was large enough to contain, along with these things, 
stores of classic imagery. He delighted in Ovid, and, as a labour 
of love, had executed a finished picture from the MetafnorphosiSy 



.€r. 68—70.] HAMPSTEAD ; AND YOUTHFUL DISCIPLES. 347 

after Giulio Romano. This design hung in his room, and, close 
by his engraving table, Albert Diirer's Melancholy the Mother of In- 
vention^ memorable as probably having been seen by Milton, and 
used in his Penseroso. There are living a few artists, then boys, 
who may remember the smile of welcome with which he used to 
rise from that table to receive them. 

, His poems were variously estimated. They tested rather severely 
the imaginative capacity of their readers. Flaianan said they were 
as grand as his designs, and Wordsworth delighted in his Songs oj 
Innocence. To the multitude they. were unintelligible. In many 
parts full of pastoral sweetness, and often flashing with noble 
tlioughts or terrible imagery, we must regret that he should some- 
times have suffered fancy to trespass within sacred precincts. 

Thrown early among the authors who resorted to Johnson, the 
bookseller, he rebuked the profanity of Paine, and was no disciple 
of Priestley ; but, too undisciplined and cast upon times and cir- 
cumstances which yielded him neither guidance nor sympathy, he 
wanted that balance of the faculties which might have assisted him in 
matters extraneous to his profession. He saw everything through 
art, and, in matters beyond its range, exalted it from a witness into 
a judge. 

He had great powers of argument, and on general subjects was 
a very patient and good-tempered disputant ; but materialism was 
his abhorrence : and if some unhappy man called in question the 
world of spirits, he would answer him " according to his folly," by 
putting forth his own views in their most extravagant and startling 
aspect This might amuse those who were in the secret, but it left 
his opponent angry and bewildered. 

Such was Blake, as I remember him. He was one of the few 
to be met with in our passage through life, who are not in some way 
or other, *' double-minded " and inconsistent with themselves ; one 
of the very few who cannot be depressed by neglect, and to whose 
name rank and station could add no lustre. Moving apart, in a 
sphere above the attraction of worldly honours, he did not accept 
greatness, but confer it. He ennobled poverty, and, by his con- 
versation and the influence of his genius, made two small rooms in 
Fountain Court more attractive than the threshold of princes. 

I remain, my dear Sir, 

Yours very faithfully, 

Samuel Palmer. 

To Alexander Gilchrist, Esq. 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

s 

PERSONAL DETAILS. 

The intelligent sympathy and candour animating the life- 
like portraiture of the Letter which concludes the forgoing 
chapter need no comment on my part I will here simply 
add a few additional details, characteristic of Blake personally, 
and of his manner of life in Fountain Court; gleaned from 
the recollections of others who knew him there. 

Blake's two rooms on the first floor were approached by a 
wainscoted staircase, with handsome balustrades, such as we 
And in houses of Queen Anne*s date, and lit by a window to 
the left, looking out on the well-like back yard below. Hav- 
ing ascended, two doors faced you, opening into the back and 
front rooms. That in front, with the windows looking out on 
Fountain Court, its panelled walls hung "wx^ frescos^ temperas^ 
and drawings of Blake's, was used as a reception room. 
From it a door opened into the smaller back room, the 
window of which (a side one) looked down a deep gap 
between the houses of Fountain Court and the parallel street ; 
in this way commanding a peep of the Thames with its 
muddy banks, and of distant Surrey hills beyond. This was. 
at once, sleeping and living room, kitchen and studio. In 
one corner was the bed ; in another, the fire at which Mrs. 
Blake cooked. On one side stood the table, serving for 
meals, and by the window, the table at which Blake always 
sat (facing the light), designing or engraving. There was an 
air of poverty as of an artisan's room ; but everything was 



. -KARY 



iNv-l AND 
- ' V NUAIIOM I 

i__ 






PERSONAL DETAILS. 349 

clean and neat ; nothing sordid. Blake himself, with his 
serene, cheerful, dignified presence and manner, made all 
seem natural and of course. Conversing with him, you saw 
or felt nothing of his poverty, though he took no pains to 
conceal it; if he had, you would have been effectually 
reminded of it. What, in description, sounds mean and 
miserable wore, to Blake's intimates, a delightful aspect. 
Such an expression as his ' wretched rooms,' as by some they 
have been described, is to them quite unintelligible. 'I 
should only like to go in this afternoon I ' declared one friend, 
while talking of them to me. ' And, ah ! that divine win- 
dow!' exclaimed another. Charming and poetic the view 
from it seemed to those accustomed to associate Blake's 
person and conversation with it. While a third with brisk 
emphasis affirms, ' There was no '* misery " in Blake's rooms 
' for men who love art, a good table ' (not, of course, in the 
* epicure's sense), and warmth.' * I never look upon him as 
an unfortunate man of genius. He knew every great man of 
his day, and had enough.' 

Happening to read to the author of the letter lately quoted 
a passage from a MS. in which the word 'squalor' was used 
in connexion with Blake's home, the following quaint 
remonstrance was elicited : — 

May yd^ i860. 

My dear Sir, 

Late as we parted last night, I awaked at dawn with the 
question in my ear. Squalor ? — squalor ? 

Crush it ; it is a roc's egg to your fabric. 

I have met with this perverse mistake elsewhere. It gives ft 
notion altogether false of the man, his house, and his habits. 

No, certainly; — whatever was in Blake's house, there was no 

squalor. Himself, his wife, and his rooms, were clean and orderly ; 

everything was in its place. His delightful working comer had 

its implements ready — tempting to the hand. The millionaire's 

upholsterer can fumish no enrichments like those of Blake's 

enchanted rooms. ^ ,. , ,s. 

Believe me, dear Su-, 

Yours most truly, 

S. Palmer. 



IYj UFX of UllLUAM BIA¥F- 

Simplidty and natural d r ke's can ooofar 

refinement on any enrin L External disoordanGB 

vanished before the spiritual gc ooids of the man. ' There 
was a strange expansion,' sa>-5 i e of his friends, ' and aensi- 
tion of Freedom in those two roooas vefj seldom fidt dse- 
where.' Another who, as a little girU visited the rooms wiA 
her father, can only remember the beautiful things she snr 
on the walls, and Blake's kind manner to hersdf. Had tiiere 
been anything sordid or poverty-stricken to reme m ber, die 
would have done so, for children are keenly sensitive to sudi 
impressions. Blake, I may here mention, was especially food 
of» and very kind to children ; his habitual quiet gentleness 
assuming a new beauty towards thenL He was kind to the 
young generally; and, as a lady (Miss Maria Denman), to 
whom in youth this fostering behaviour had been, in slight 
ways, shown, observed to me with some emotion, ' One 
remembers, even in age, the kindness of such a man.' 

^ Blake knew nothing,* writes the valued correspondent 
whom I have so frequent occasion to quote, ' of dignified 
* reserve, polite hauteur, *' bowings out, or condescension to 
•inferiors," nor had he dressed himself for masquerade in 
' ** unassuming manners." Somewhere in his writings occur 
' these lines, droll, but full of meaning — 

* " The fox, the owl, the sjMcier, and the bat. 
By s7Vtrt resen^e and modesty grow fat" * 

The courtly and politic were denied Blake. But he fi-as 
not among those who fancy genius raises them above the 
courtesies and humanities of life. Competent judges describe 
him as, essentially, *thc politest of men/ To this gentleman- 
lincss, and to what I may call the originality of his manners 
or mental dress, observers of various habits agree in sp>eak- 
ing. ' Very courteous,' * very polite ; ' and 'withal there was 
great meekness and retirement of manner, such as belong to 
the true gentleman and commanded respect,' says one. In 
society ho was more urbane than many of greater pretension. 



PERSONAL DETAILS. 35 1 

and in the face, often, of uncourteous opposition. At Hamp- 
stead, one day, Collins the painter, — ^after having said very 
rude things, such as people of the world, under the conscious- 
ness of superior sense and sanity, will indulge in towards those 
they call 'enthusiasts,' — was obliged to confess Blake had 
made a very gentlemanly and temperate return. Nobody, to 
look at or listen to him in society, would have taken him for 
the knock-me-down assertor he was in his writings. Crudities 
there may, in fact, be set down to his never having won real 
ease or freedom in that mode of expression. In more inti- 
mate relations again, his own goodness and sweetness of 
nature spoke still more eloquently. And if he had received a 
kindness, the tender heart was so sensitive, he could hardly 
do enough to show his consciousness of it. 

Nor was Blake one of that numerous class who reserve 
their civility for their social superiors or mental equals, the 
distinguished and celebrated, — those recommended, in short, 
by the suffrages of others. ' He was equally polite (and that 
is rare indeed) to men of ever>'" age and rank ; honouring all 
men.* In which he resembled Flaxman, who addressed his 
carvers and workmen as ' friends,' and made them such by his 
kindness. Of this spontaneous courtesy to all, the following 
is an instance : — Once, while his young friend Calvert was 
with him in Fountain Court, a man brought up a sack of 
coals, knocked at the door, and asked, * Are these coals for 
here ? ' * No, Sir,* answered Blake, in quiet, courteous tones, 
as to an equal ; ' but Til ask whose they are.' Blake's fellow 
lodgers were humble but respectable. The court did not, inf 
those days, present, as now, its idle groups of women, banging 
about outside the doors, with free and easy, not to say un- 
finished, toilets ; there was no excessive noise of children. 
Children at play there doubtless often were, as one of Mr. 
Palmer's anecdotes would indicate. 

Vehement and outrageous as Blake could at times be (in 
words), his ordinary habit of mind was — at all events in these 
latter years — one of equable gentleness. He was no longer 



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-* w 



'n 




Tlacauiuic. 



laiiimr is loci to 



b BniT ^ "{kc t^ 



2zetk 



liar 



of paccagc 

II m 



For 



rrti - 
iUft If Ti • r t 

lie rnmoansd ^ a. jsipi 
' vn. wci -ran 's&sn ; r 3x i ami in 
Staid iu;nr*r7);r. i rfcft oKt oe ainxst*3t 

he £t:t that hit (x*^d 02.7^ 22 
€fa(M«i ; :i ie h^fci sot Toian: ly, 
ciftav-trl to tiut ::za^lr..ir:-i-^ life. * If asicoi' writes Mr. Rdmcr. 
' vbttiktr I ^> tr 'icr.c-v, ^nioq^ tbe mtrilrctnal, a happy man* 
' fclaic/^ VAild i>t the oaly or.-; wiio woold imfBedxatdy occur 
' Xf* mtJ ArA th^ feeling of happcness comaianicated itself 
;i% ^ .%er^ne, ber.^ficent influence to othersL His disciples 
y/r,:M f/ir,n Ti'^jvA^ thereat, and wish they had within them- 
hnW':% i:\': faculty, unhelped by him, to (eel ^he did. 

liicrf: i> a 5vhort jKicm in the MS. note-boo^ which speaks 
c\fpf\iif:nily on thi<i head of unwoiidliness with its resultant 
ciiltn, elevated joy. Let us listen to it : — 

I rov: up at the dawn of day : 
* (jci ihce away ! get thee away ! 
Pr,iycst thou for riches ? away ! away ! 
'J his is the throne of Mammon grey!' 

Said I : * This, sure, is very odd ; 
1 took it to he the throne of God. 
I'A'erythiii^ besides I have : 
It's only riches that I ran crave. 



PERSONAL DETAILS. 353 

1 have mental joys and mental health, 
Mental friends and mental wealth ; 
IVe a wife that I love, and that loves me, 
IVe all but riches bodily. 

Then if for riches I must not pray, 
God knows it's little prayers I need say. 
I am in God's presence night and day; 
He never turns His face away. 

The accuser of sins by my side doth stand, 
And he holds my money bag in his hand ; 
For my worldly things God makes him pay; 
And he'd pay for more, if to him I would pray. 

He says, if I worship not him for a god, 
I shall eat coarser food, and go worse shod ; 
But as I don't value such things as these. 
You must do, Mr. Devil, just as God please. 

A lady tells a pretty and very characteristic story of her 
first and only interview with the spiritual man, which illus- 
trates, in another way, how he came by this happiness. The 
lady was thought extremely beautiful when a child, and was 
taken to an evening party and there presented to Blake, He 
looked at her very kindly for a long while, without speaking ; 
and then, stroking her head and « long ringlets, said : 'May 
' God make this world to you, my child, as beautiful as it has 
* been to me T She thought it strange, at the time — vain little 
darling of Fortune ! — that such a poor old man, dressed in 
shabby clothes, could imagine that the world had ever been so 
beautiful to him as it must be to her, nursed in all the ele- 
gancies and luxuries of wealth. But, in after years, she 
understood plainly enough what he meant, and treasured the 
few words he had spoken to her. Well might he sweetly and 
touchingly say of himself (I draw from the note-book 
again) : — 

The Angel who presided at my birth 

Said : * Litde creature formed of joy and mirth, 

Go, love without the help of anything on earth.* 

VOL. L A A 



IX 




A r-r--. .- - 



• •. - .. .1. .^-.^ 



r. ik 



Srait of gnat 
5a rts crdmaiy 



-r 



1 -.-.-. 







!l:5 V ' ZXI S 









£ i2d b&rd t3 fellov: To coo- 
a ssixtcre of di\-mitv, 
z 1 sixtnre. not cw^n by them, 
=p» r-irclj :':r7:cr-2- 1= a wx'k with a sympathetic 

He would bare something pcr- 



t.r.t-t ::• say i!>:;:t =::<t :b;ects they chanced to pass« were 
rt but a bit cf o*i wall And sach as had the privilege of 
acc3rr.par>-ir.g hin :n a cimntry valk fdt their perception 



cf rat-ril beaurv- <7ea:'v enhanced. Nature herself seemed 
5tran<elv rr-ore scirlna'.. Blake*? mind wanned his listener's, 
kindled his irr.ag"' nation ; alniost creating in him a new 
sense. Xor was his enjo\-ment of all that is great in Art, 
of whatever school or time, less genuine and vivid : notwith- 
standing an appearance to the contrary in some passages 
of his wTitings, where, in doing battle energetically for 
certain great principles, random blows not a few, on either 
side the mark, came down on unoffending heads; or uliere, 
in the consciousness that a foolish world had insisted on 
raising the less great above the greatest, he delighted to 
make matters even by thrusting them as much too far 
below. ' I think I hear him say,' wTites one of those friends 
whose congeniality ensured serene, wise moods on Blake's 
part, 'As fine as possible, Sir. It is not given to man to do 
better * (this when talking of the great examples of Art, 
whether antique or modern). * He delighted to think ot 
' Raphael, Giulio Romano, Polidoro, and others, working 



PERSONAL DETAILS. 355 

* together in the chambers of the Vatican, engaged, without 

* jealousy, as he imagined, in the carrying out of one great 

* common object ; and he used to compare it (without 

* any intentional irreverence) to the co-labours of the holy 

* Apostles. He dwelt on this subject very fondly. . , . Among 

* spurious old pictures, he had met with many '' Claudes," but 
'spoke of a few which he had seen, really untouched and 

* unscrubbed, with the greatest delight ; and mentioned, as 
'a peculiar charm, that in these, when minutely examined, 
' there were, upon the focal lights of the foliage, small specks 
' of pure white which made them appear to be glittering with 

* dew which the morning sun had not yet dried up. . • . His 

* description of these genuine Claudes, I shall never forget. 

* He warmed with his subject, and it continued through an 
' evening walk. The sun was set ; but Blake's Claudes made 
'sunshine in that shady place.' . • . . *0f Albert Diirer, 

* he remarked that his most finished woodcuts, when closely 
'examined, seemed to consist principally of outline; — that 

* they were " everything and yet nothing." .... None but 
' the finest of the antiques, he held, equalled Michael Angelo.' 

As we have seen, Blake's was no 'poetic poverty,' of a 
kind to excite the pensive interest of sentimental people 
without shocking their nerves; but real, prosaic poverty. 
Such 'appearances' as I have described tasked his whole 
income to maintain. And his was an honourable code: he 
was never, amid all his poverty, in debt ' Money,' says 
Mr. Palmer, 'he used with careful frugality, but never loved 
'it; and believed that he should be always supplied with 
' it as it was wanted : in which he was not disappointed. 
'And he worked on with serenity when there was only a 
' shilling in the house. Once (he told me) he spent part of 
' one of these last shillings on a camel's hair brush. .... He 
' would have laughed very much at the word status^ which has 
'been naturalised into our language of late years.' Last 
shillings were, at all periods of Blake's life, a frequent 
incident of his household economy. For, while engrossed in 

A A 2 



356 ^ LIFE OF WILLIAM BLARE. 

designing, he had often an aversion to resuming his graver, 
or to being troubled about money matters. It put him 
out very much when Mrs. Blake referred to the financial 
topic, or found herself constrained to announce, ' The money 

• is going, Mr. Blake/ * Oh, d the money I ' he would 

shout ; ' it's always the money ! ' Her method of hinting 
at the odious subject became, in consequence, a very quiet 
and expressive one< She would set before him at dinner 
just what there was in the house, without any comment 
until, finally, the empty platter had to make its appearance : 
which hard fact effectually reminded him it was time to go 
to his engraving for a while. At that, when fully embarked 
again, he was not unhappy ; work being his natural element 

As every slightest anecdote of Blake has its de gree c^ per- 
sonal value, I may give the following one. A historical painter 
of the class endlessly industrious yet for ever unknown, 
was one day pointing out to a visitor some favourite specimen 
of hopeless hugeness, and said: 'Mr. Blake once paid me 
a high compliment on that picture. It was on the last occa- 
sion when the old gentleman visited me, and his words were. 
" Ah ! that is what I have been trying to do all my life — to 
paint round and never could." ' This may be taken as an 
instance of the courteous care with which Blake would find 
some agreeable word for an inoffensive inferior in Art. Had 
such a charge been brought against himself by an aggressor. 
how instant a spark would have been struck from him ! 

Allan Cunningham has talked of Blake's living on a crust. 
But, in these latter years he, for the most part, lived on good, 
though simple fare. His wife was an excellent cook — a 
talent which helped to fill out Blake's waistcoat a little, as 
he grew old. She could even prepare a made dish, when 
need be. As there was no servant, he fetched the porter 
for dinner himself, from the house at the comer of the 
Strand. Once, pot of porter in hand, he espied coming 
along a dignitary of Art — that highly respectable man, 
William Collins, R.A., whom he had met in society a few 



PERSONAL DETAILS. 357 

evenings before. The Academician was about to shake 
hands but, seeing the porter, drew up and did not know 
him. Blake would tell the story very quietly, and without 
sarcasm. Another time, Fuseli came in and found Blake 
with a little cold mutton before him for dinner; who, far 
from being disconcerted, asked his friend to join him. ' Ah ! 
by G — !' exclaimed Fuseli, 'this is the reason you can do 
as you like. Now I can't do thisJ His habits were very 
temperate. It was only in later years he took porter 
regularly. He then fancied it soothed him, and would sit 
and muse over his pint after a one o'clock dinner. When he 
drank wine, which, at home, of course, was seldom, he 
professed a liking to drink off good draughts from a tumbler, 
and thought the wine glass system absurd : a very heretical 
opinion in the eyes of your true wine drinkers. Frugal 
and abstemious on principle, and for pecuniary reasons, he 
was sometimes rather imprudent, and would take anything 
that came in his way. A nobleman once sent him some oil 
of walnuts he had had expressed purposely for an artistic 
experiment Blake tasted it, and went on tasting, till he had 
drunk the whole. When his lordship called to ask how 
the experiment^ had prospered, the artist had to confess 
what had beome of the ingredients. It was ever after a 
standing joke against him. 

In his dress there was a similar triumph of the man over 
his poverty to that which struck one in his room& In- 
doors, he was careful, for economy*s sake, but not slovenly : 
his clothes were threadbare, and his grey trousers had worn 
black and shiny in front, like a mechanic's. Out of doors, 
he was more particular, so that his dress did not, in the 
streets of London, challenge attention either way. He 
wore black knee breeches and buckles, black worsted 
stockings, shoes which tied, and a broad-brimmed hat. It 
was something like an old-fashioned tradesman's dress. But 
the general impression he made on you was that of a 
gentleman, in a way of his own. 



358 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

In person, there was much in Blake which answered to tiie 
remarkable man he was. Though low in stature, not qtiite 
five feet and a half, and broad shouldered, he was well made, 
and did not strike people as short For he had an upright 
carriage and a good presence ; he bore himself with dignity, 
as not unconscious of his natural claims. The head and 
face were strongly stamped, with the power and character 
of the man. There was great volume of brain in that square, 
massive head, that piled up brow, very full and rounded at 
the temples, where, according to phrenologists, ideality or 
imagination resides* His eyes were fine — ^wonderful eyes,* 
some one calls them ; prominently set, but bright, spiritual, 
visionary; — not restless nor wild, but with 'a look of clear 
heavenly exaltation.' The eyes of some of the old men 
in his yo^, recall his own, to surviving friends. His nose 
was insignificant as to size, but had that peculiarity which 
gives to a face an expression of fiery enei^, as of a high 
mettled steed, — ' a little cUnchid nostril ; a nostril that opened 
as far as it could, but was tied down at one end.' His mouth 
was wide, the lips not full, but tremulous, and expressive of 
the great sensibility which characterised him. He was short- 
sighted, as the prominence of his eyes indicated ; a prominence 
in keeping with his faculty for languages, according to the 
phrenologists again. He wore glasses only occasionally. 

Mrs. Blake, the artist's companion at almost every hour of 
the twenty-four, now, as of old, cheerfully accepted the lot of 
a poor man's wife as few gifted men's wives are prepared to 
do. ' Rigid, punctual, firm, precise,' and, as I have said, a 
good housewife, she extracted the utmost possible amount of 
domestic comfort out of their slender means, which she, like 
her husband, was scrupulously careful never to exceed. She 
shared his destiny and softened it, ministering to his daily 
wants. Not that he put off everything menial upon her, 
willing though she were. *For many years,* writes J. T. 
S mith, who knew both well, * he made a constant practice of 
* lighting the fire, and putting on the kettle for breakfast 



PERSONAL DETAILS. 359 

* before his Kate awoke.' Smith speaks of the uninterrupted 
harmony in which Blake and ' his beloved Kate ' lived. Such 
harmony there really was ; but, as we saw, it had not always 
been unruffled. There Aad been stormy times in years long 
past, when both were young ; discord by no means trifling 
while it lasted. But with the cause (jealousy on her side, not 
wholly unprovoked), the strife had ceased also. In age and 
affliction each grasped the reward of so wise a reconciliation, 
in an even, calm state of companionship and mutual helpful- 
ness. And 'his Kate' was capable of sharing, to some 
extent at all events, the inner life too, and of yielding true 
sympathy. 'Having never been a mother,* says the same 
cordially appreciative friend, who saw much of her in later 
years, and whose words I have already often borrowed, ' to 

* this devoted wife Blake was at once lover, husband, child. 

* She would get up in the night, when he was under his very 

* fierce inspirations, which were as if they would tear him 

* asunder, while he was yielding himself to the Muse, or 
'whatever else it could be called, sketching and writing. 
' And so terrible a task did this seem to be, that she had to 
' sit motionless and silent ; only to stay him mentally, with- 
' out moving hand or foot : this for hours, and night after 
' night Judge of the obedient, unassuming devotion of her 
' dear soul to him I ' 

Mrs. Bkike's spirit, in truth, was influenced magnetically, if 
one may so speak, by her husband's. She appears to have 
had the same literal belief in his visions as John Varley ; and 
when he, in his wild way, would tell his friends that King 
Alfred or any great historical personage, had sat to him, Mrs. 
Blake would look at her husband with an awe-struck counte- 
nance, and then at his listener to confirm the fact. Not only 
was she wont to echo what he said, to talk as he talked, on 
religion and other matters — this may be accounted for by the 
fact that he had educated her ; but she, too, learned to have 
visions ; — to see processions of figures wending along the 
river, in broad daylight ; and would give a start when they 



360 MFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

disappeared in the water. As Blake truly maintained, the 
faculty for seeing such airy phantoms can be cultivated I 
have mentioned that she coloured Blake's designs under his 
direction, and successfully. One drawing, undoubtedly 
designed as well as executed by herself, is now in Mr. Lin- 
nell's possession. It is so like a work of Blake's, that one 
can hardly believe it* to have been the production of Another 
hand. Captain Butts has also one, of small size, in pen and 
ink : a seated figure of a woman, which I would not hesitate, 
at first sight, to call a Blake ; and even on inspection it proves 
a very fair drawing. I have no doubt of this too being boni 
fide Mrs. Blake's. Some of the characteristics of an originally 
uneducated mind had clung to her, despite the late culture 
received from her husband : — an exaggerated suspiciousness, 
for instance, and even jealousy of his friends. But vulgarity 
there was none. In person, the once beautiful brunette had, 
with years, grown — as we have elsewhere observed — common 
and coarse-looking, except ' in so far,' says one who knew her, 

* as love made her otherwise, and spoke through her gleaming 

* black eyes.' This appearance was enhanced by the common, 
dirty dress, poverty, and perhaps age, had rendered habitual. 
In such cases, the traces of past beauty do but heighten the 
melancholy of its utter ruin. Amid so much that was beauti- 
ful in her affectionate, wifely spirit, these externals were little 
noticed. To friends who remember Blake in Fountain Court, 
those calm, patriarchal figures of Job and his Wife in the 
artist's own designs, still recall the two, as they used to sit 
together in that humble room. 

All I have met, who at any period of the poet-artist's life 
knew much of Blake, speak with affection of him. A sweet, 
gentle, lovable creature, say all ; courageous too, yet not 
bitter. Of course, casual acquaintances were more startled 
than pleased by his extravagances and vehemences of speech. 
To men of the world, his was a mind which, whether judged 
by his writings or his talk, inevitably seemed scarcely a sane, 
still less a trustworthy one. The impression he made on 



PERSONAL DETAILS. 36 1 

others varied in proportion to the community of sentiment 
which existed ; and, as I said, he showed his best self only to 
such as had this bond of sympathy ; namely, a certain inno- 
cence and even humility of heart, a certain virgfin freshness of 
mind. In society he was often brought into contact with 
men, superior and intellectual, but occupying widely different 
spheres of thought to his own ; who, if they admired, mar- 
velled still more, and could not accept him and his strange, 
novel individuality in the frank, confiding spirit of those to 
whom we have been lately hearkening. We shall have 
evidence of this in a later chapter. 



/ 




^ 



CATHERINE BLAKE. 

From a pencil drawing by her hatband. 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

MAD OR NOT MAD? 

In his familiar conversations with Mr. Pahner and other 
disciples, Blake would speak in the most matter-of-fact way 
of recent spiritual visitors. Much of their talk was of the spirits 
he had been discoursing with and, to a third person, would 
have sounded oddly enough. 'Milton the other day was 

* saying to me/ so and so. ' I tried to convince him he was 
' wrong, but I could not succeed.' ' His tastes are Pagan ; his 
' house is Palladian, not Gothic' Ingenuous listeners hardly 
knew, sometimes, whether to believe Blake saw these spirits 
or not ; but could not go so far as utterly to deny that he 
did. It often struck them, however, that the spirits came 
under false pretences, and were not what they represented 
themselves ; inasmuch as they spoke false doctrine, broached 
unsound opinions. 

In society, again, Blake would give accounts of romantic 
appearances which had shown themselves to him. At one 
of Mr. Adcrs' parties — at which Flaxman, Lawrence, and 
other leading artists were present — Blake was talking to a 
little group gathered round him, within hearing of a lady 
whose children had just come home from boarding school for 
the holidays. ' The other evening,* said Blake, in his usual 
quiet way, 'taking a walk, I came to a meadow and, at the 

* farther corner of it, I saw a fold of lambs. Coming nearer, 



MAD OR NOT MAD ? 363 

' the ground blushed with flowers ; and the wattled cote and 
' its woolly tenants were of an exquisite pastoral beauty. But 

• I looked again, and it proved to be no living flock, but 
' beautiful sculpture.' The lady, thinking this a capital holi- 
day-show for her children, eagerly interposed, ' I beg pardoni 

• Mr. Blake, but may I ask where you saw this ? ' ' Here^ 

• madam,' answered Blake, touching his forehead. The reply 
brings us to the point of view from which Blake himself re- 
garded his visions. It was by no means the mad view those 
ignorant of the man have fancied. He would candidly confess 
they were not literal matters of fact ; but phenomena seen by 
his imagination : realities none the less for that, but transacted 
within the realm of mind. A distinction which widely 
separates such visions from the hallucinations of madness, or 
of the victims of ghostly or table-turning delusions ; and in- 
dicates that wild habit of talk (and of writing) which startled 
outsiders to have been the fruit of an excessive culture of 
the imagination, combined with daring licence of speech. No 
man, by the way, would have been more indifferent or averse 
than he (wide and tolerant as was his faith in supernatural 
revelations) towards the table-turning, wainscot-knocking, 
bosh-propounding 'Spiritualism' of the present hour; the 
gross and puerile materialism which tries to pass itself off for 
its eternal opposite. He might not have disbelieved in the 
' communications ' in question ; but they would not, in his 
eyes, have seemed worth attending to, or as proceeding from 
a higher world at all : — only, perhaps, as the witless pranks 
of very ignoble spirits from a lower one. ' Blake never dreamed 
of questioning the correctness of his impressions,' to borrow 
Mr. Smetham's sagacious and discriminating words, — 'To 
'him all thought came with the clearness and veracity of 
'vision. The conceptive faculty working with a perception 
' of outward facts, singularly narrow and imperfect, projected 
' every idea boldly into the sphere of the actual What he 
' thought, that he saw to all intents and purposes. It was this 
' sudden and sharp crystallisation oi inward notions into 



364 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

'outward and visible signs which produced the impressioo, 
* on many beholders, that reason was unseated,' 

According to his own explanation, Blake saw spiritual 
appearances by the exercise of a special faculty — fh^t of 
imagination — ^using the word in the then unusual, but true 
sense, of a faculty which busies itself with the subtler reali- 
ties, fufi with fictions. He, on this ground, objected even 
to Shakespeare's expression — 

'And gives to aizy nothifig 
' A local habitation and a name.' 

He said the things imagination saw were as much realities as 
were gross and tang^ible facts. He would tell his artist- 
friends, 'You have the same faculty as I (the visionaiy)i 
' only you do not trust or cultivate it You can see what I 
'do, if you choose' In a similiar spirit was his advice to a 
young painter : ' You have only to work up imagination to 
'the state of vision, and the thing is done.' After all, he dul 
but use the word vision in precisely the same sense in which 
Wordsworth uses it to designate the poet's special endow- 
ment ; as when he speaks of Chaucer as one 

* whose spirit often dwelt 



In the clear land of vision.' 

The only difference is, that Blake was for applying the word 
boldly in detail, instead of merely as a general term. And 
why not ? What word could more happily express the truth ? 
In short, his belief in what he himself ' saw in vision,' was not 
as in a material, but a spiritual fact — to his mind a more real 
kind of fact The greater importance of the latter was one 
of his leading canons. He was, moreover, inclined, meta- 
physically, to be a follower of Bishop Berkeley, — a disbeliever 
in matter, as I have already said. 

Extravagant and apocryphal stories have passed current 
about Blake. One — which I believe Leigh Hunt used to tell 
— bears internal evidence, to those who understand Blake, of 



MAD OR NOT MAD? 365 

having been a fabrication. Once, it is said, the visionary 
man was walking down Cheapside with a friend. Suddenly 
he took off his hat and bowed low. ' What did you do that 
for ?' ' Oh ! that was the Apostle Paul.' A story quite out 
of keeping with the artist's ordinary demeanour towards his 
spiritual visitants, though quite in unison with the accepted 
notions as to ghosts and other apparitions with whom the 
ghost-seer is traditionally supposed to have tangible personal 
relations. Blake's was not that kind of vision. The spirits 
which appeared to him did not reveal themselves in palp- 
able, hand-shaking guise, nor were they mistaken by him for 
bodily facts. He did not claim for them an external, or (in 
German slang) an objective existence. 

In Blake, imagination was by nature so strong, by himself 
had been scFmuch fostered and, amid the solitude in which he 
hVed, had been so little interfered with by the ideas of others, 
that it had grown to a disproportionate height so as to over- 
shadow every other faculty. He relied on it as on a revelation 
of the Invisible. The appearances thus summoned before his 
mental eye were implicitly trusted in, not dismissed as idle 
phantoms as an ordinary — even an imaginative — man dis- 
misses them. Hence his bond fide * portraits' of visionary 
characters, such as those drawn for John Varley. And to 
this genuine faith is due the singular difference in kind 
between his imaginative work and that of nearly every other 
painter who has left a record of himself. Such is the expla- 
nation which all who knew the man personally give of 
what seemed mere madness to the world. 

And here let us finally dispose of this vexed question of 
Blake's 'madness; ' the stigma which, in its haste to arrive at 
some decision on an unusual phenomenon, the world has 
fastened on him, as on many other notable men before. Was 
he a 'glorious madman,' according to the assumption of 
those who knew nothing of him personally, little of his works, 
nothing of the genesis of them — of the deep though wayward 
spiritual currents of which they were the unvarying exponent } 



366 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

To Blake's surviving friends— all who knew more of his 
character than a few casual interviews could supply — the pro- 
position is (I find) simply unintelligible ; thinking of him, as 
they do, under the strong influence of happy, fruitful, personal 
intercourse remembered in the past ; swayed by the general 
tenor of his life, rather than by isolated extravagances of 
speech, or wild passages in his writings. All are unanimoos 
on the point And I have taken the opinions of many inde- 
pendent witnesses. ' I saw nothing but sanity/ declares one 
(Mr. Calvert) ; ' saw nothing mad in his conduct, actions, or 
* character.' Mr. Linnell and Mr Palmer express themselves 
in the same sense, and almost in the same words. Another 
very unbiassed and intelligent acquaintance — Mr. Finch — 
summed up his recollections thus : — * He was not mad, but 
'perverse and wilful; he reasoned correctly from arbitrary, 
' and often false premises.' This, however, is what madmen 
have been sometimes defined to do ; grant them their premises, 
and their conclusions are right Nor can I quite concur in it 
as characteristic of Blake, who was no reasoner, but pre- 
eminently a man of intuitions ; and therefore more often right 
as to his premises than his deductions. But, at all events, a 
madman's actions are not consonant with sound premises: 
Blake's always were. He could throw aside his visionary 
mood and his paradoxes when he liked. Mad people try to 
conceal f/teir crazes, and in the long run cannot succeed. 

' There was nothing mad about him,' emphatically exclaimed 
to me Mr. Cornelius Varley ; * people set down for mad any- 
thing different from themselves.' That vigorous veteran, the 
late James Ward, who had often met Blake in society and 
talked with him, would never hear him called mad. If mad 
he were, it was a madness which infected everybody who 
came near him ; the wife who all but worshipped him, for 
one — whose sanity I never heard doubted ; sensible, practical 
Mr. Butts, his almost life-long friend and patron, for another 
— who, I have reason to know, reckoned him eccentric, but 
nothing worse. The high respect which Flaxman and Fuseli 



MAD OR NOT MAD? 367 

always entertained for him I have already referred to. Even 
so well-balanced a mind as Gary's (the translator of Dante) 
abandoned, after he came to know him, the notion he had 
taken up of his ' madness/ and simply pronounced him an 
' enthusiast/ Evidently this was the light in which he was 
r^rarded throughout life by all who had personal relations 
with him : Paine at one time, Cromek at another, Hayley at 
another ; the first two, men of sufficiently ««-visionary, the 
last of sufficiently commonplace, intellect So, too, by honest, 
prosaic John Thomas Smith who had known Blake as a 
yt)ung man. He commences a notice of him with the 
declaration d propos of what he calls this ' stigma of eccen* 
*tricity.' *I believe it has been invariably the custom of 
' every age, whenever a man has been found to depart from 
< the usual mode of thinking, to consider him of deranged 
' intellect, and not unfrequently, stark, staring mad.' And he 
quotes Cowper's words, when writing to Lady Hesketh, 
speaking of a dancing master's advertisement ; — ' The author 
' of it had the good hap to be crazed, or he had never pro* 

* duced anything half so clever ; for you will ever observe that 
' they who are said to have lost their wits, have more than 
' other people/ ' I could see in Blake's wild enthusiasm and 

* extravagance,' writes another of his personal friends, ' only 
' the struggle of an ardent mind to deliver itself of the bigness 
' and sublimity of its own conceptions/ Even shrewd Allan 
Cunningham, a man who lived in an atmosphere of common 
sense, had, it is evident, spontaneously adopted a similar 
conclusion, and writes of Blake in a manner that tacitly 
assumes his sanity. ' Blake's misfortune,' says he, ' was that 
'of possessing this precious gift (imagination) in excess. 
' His fancy overmastered him, until he at length confounded 
***the mind's eye" with the corporeal organ, and dreamed 
' himself out of the sympathies of actual life.' And again : 

* Painting, like poetry, has followers the body of whose genius 
' is light compared to the length of its wings, and who, rising 

* above the ordinary sympathies of our nature, are, like 



368 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

' Napoleon, betrayed by a star which no eye can see save their 
' own« To this rare class belonged William Blake.' 

That the present writer shares the view of his predecessors 
and of Blake's personal intimates, is doubtless already ap- 
parent And, perhaps, the deliberate opinion, on such a 
point, of a biographer who has necessarily devoted a toni 
fide slice of his life to deciphering the character of him he 
writes of, is entitled to sonu weight, —to more, say, than tiic 
rough and ready decisions, which are based on an isolated 
anecdote or two, or on certain incoherent passages in a series 
of professedly mystical writings. So far as I am concerned, 
I would infinitely rather be mad with William Blake than 
sane with nine-tenths of the world. When, indeed, such men 
are nicknamed 'mad,* one is brought in contact with the 
difficult problem ' What is madness ? ' Who is not mad — in 
some other person's sense, himself, perhaps, not the noUest of 
created mortals ? Who, in certain abstruse cases, is to be the 
judge ? Does not prophet or hero always seem * mad ' to the 
respectable mob, and to polished men of the world, the motives 
of feeling and action being so alien and incomprehensible? 

In a letter respecting Blake, addressed by the late James 
Ward, in June, 1855, to his son, George Raphael, the engraver, 
the venerable artist gave expression to an interesting view 
of his own — itself, some may think, tinged by eccentricity. 

* There can be no doubt,' he writes, ' of his having 
' been what the world calls a man of genius. But his 
' genius was of a peculiar character, sometimes above, sorae- 
' times below the comprehension of his fellow-men. ... I 
' have considered him as amongst the many proofs I have 

* witnessed, of men being possessed of different orders of 

* spirits 710W, as well as in the time when the Saviour Christ 
' was upon the earth, — although our Established Church (to 
' its shame) set itself against it — some good, some evil, 
' in their different degrees. It is evident Blake's was not 
'an evil one, for he was a good man, the most harmless 
'and free from guile. But men, and even our Church, set 



MAD OR NOT MAD? 369 

* down everyone who is eccentric as mad. Alas ! how 
' many now in Bedlam, are there for disorders of soul 
' (spirit), and not of the body ? ' A similar suspicion to this 
Blake himself would sometimes hazard, viz. that * there are 

* probably n|en shut up as mad in Bedlam, who are not so : 

* that possibly the madmen outside have shut up the sane 
' people.' Which, by the way, is not the kind of talk a mad- 
man, or a man conscious of lying under such a suspicion among 
his friends, would indulge in. Madmen, and those suspected 
of madness, do not make common cause with the mad ; they 
rather shun, or take side against them, as animals treat a 
diseased or wounded comrade. Above all, a madman, with 
his uneasy sense of his own true condition, has a sensitive 
horror of so personal a topic and cunningly avoids it 

One ground of the exaggerated misconception of Blake's 
eccentricities prevalent among those who had luard about 
Blake rather than sat at his feet, — those strange 'visions* 
of his, we have accounted for quite consistently with 
sanity. As we said, he, in conversation with his friends, 
admitted so much, — viz. the inchoate power of others to see 
the same things he saw, — as to eliminate any outrageous 
extravagance from his pretensions as a soothsayer. Bearing 
OR this point, it is to be remarked that a madman insists on 
others seeing as he sees. But Blake did not expect his 
companion of the moment. John Varley, or Mrs. Blake, to 
behold the visionary spectres summoned from the void before 
his eyes, of prophet, king, and poet. 

One curious but indubitable historical fact is worth remem- 
brance here. It is full of suggestion in connexion with our 
present subject For Blake was, in spirit, a denizen of other 
and earlier ages of the world than the present mechanical 
one to which chance had rudely transplanted him. It is 
within the last century or so, that ' the heavens have gone 
further off,' as Hazlitt put it The supernatural world has 
during that period removed itself further from civilised, culti- 
vated humanity than it was ever before — in all time, heathen 

VOL. I. B B 



370 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

or Christian. There is, at this moment, infinitely less prac- 
tical belief in an invisible world, or even apprehension of it, 
than at any previous historical era, whether Egyptian, classic, 
or mediaeval. It is only within the last century and a half, 
the faculty of seeing visions could have been one to bring a 
man's sanity into question. Ever before, by simple, believing 
Romanist, by reverent, awe-struck pagan, or in the fervent 
East, the exceptional power had been accepted as a matter 
of course in gifted men, and had been turned to serious 
account in the cause of religion. Even so late a manifestatioa 
of this abiding tendency (the visionary) in all spiritual per- 
sons, as that in the case of Jacob Boehmen in Lutheran time, 
excited, not sceptical disbelief, but pedantic hostility as, 
presumably, a delusive gift from the Father of Evil rather 
than from the Author of all Good. 

Another source of the false estimate formed of Blake by 
many, is traceable to the ' wild and hurling words ' he would 
utter in conversation, — especially when provoked. In society, 
people would disbelieve and exasperate him, would set upon 
the gentle yet fiery-hearted mystic, and stir him up into 
being extravagant, out ol a mere spirit of opposition. Then 
he would say things on purpose to startle, and make people 
stare. In the excitement of conversation he would exaggerate 
his pecuHaritiQ^ of opinion and doctrine, would express a 
floating notion or fancy in an extreme way, without the 
explanation or qualification he was, in reality, well aware 
it needed ; taking a secret pleasure in the surprise and oppo- 
sition such views aroused. * Often,' — to this effect writes 
Mr. Linnell, — ' he said things on purpose to puzzle and 
' provoke those who teased him in order to bring out his 
' strongest peculiarities. With the froward, he showed him- 

* self froward, but with the gentle, he was as amiable as a 
' child. . . . His eccentricities have been enlarged upon 
' beyond the truth. He was so far from being so absurd in 

* his opinions, or so nearly mad as has been represented, that 
' he always defended Christian truth against the attacks of 



MAD OR NOT MAD? 371 

* infidels, and its abuse by the superstitious. ... It must be 

* confessed, however, he uttered, occasionally, sentiments sadly 
' at variance with sound doctrine.' 

Some persons of a scientific turn were once discoursing 
pompously and, to him, distastefully, about the incredible 
distance of the planets, the length of time light takes to 
travel to the earth, &c, when he burst out, ' 'Tis false ! I was 
walking down a lane the other day, and at the end of it I 
touched the sky with my stick ; ' perhaps with a little covert 
sophistry, meaning that he thrust his stick out into space, 
and that, had he stood upon the remotest star, he could 
do no more ; the blue sky itself being but the limit of our 
bodily perceptions of the Infinite which encompasses us. 
Scientific individuals would generally make him come out 
with something outrageous and unreasonable. Fqr he had 
an indestructible animosity towards what, to his devout, old- 
world imagination, seemed the keen polar atmosphere of 
modem science. In society, once, a cultivated stranger, as 
a mark of polite attention, was showing him the first number 
of TAe Meckanuis Magazine. * Ah, sir,' remarked Blake, 
with bland emphasis, * these things we artists HATE ! ' The 
latter years of Blake's life were an era when universal homage 
was challenged for mechanical science, — as for some new 
Evangel ; with a triumphant clamour on the part of superficial 
enthusiasts, which has since subsided. 

Yet, as Mr. Kirkup reports, Blake would on occasion, 
waive, with ' true courtesy, the question of his spiritual life, 
' if the subject seemed at all incomprehensible or offensive ; 
'he would no more obtrude than suppress his faith, and 
' would practically accept and act upon the dissent or distaste 

* of his companions without visible vexation or the rudeness 
' of a thwarted fanatic' 

After all, no candid person would, ieven in society, have 
taken Blake for mad. Nor did he really believe his own 
vaunt, say his friends, when he uttered such things as the 
above, or as, ' I can reach the sun with my hand, if I stretch 

B B 2 



372 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

it out/ &c. He believed them only in a non-natural sense. 
If it gave him pleasure to think of the welkin^ as the old 
Hebrews did, as a smooth surface which he fnight feel wiA 
his hand, he would believe it as well as he could; contending 
(among friends) that the idea had a spiritual reality. For, 
to recur to the explanation of his character I lately quoted, 
he was ' not mad, but perverse and wilful ; ' believing a thing 
because he chose to do so. His reasoning powers wdre far 
inferior, as are, more or less, those of all artists, to his per- 
ceptive, above all to his perceptions of beauty. He elected 
his opinions because they seemed beautiful to him, and 
fulfilled *the desires of his mind.' Then he would find 
reasons for them. Thus, Christianity was beautiful to hiifl, 
and was accepted even more because it satisfied his love 
of spiritual beauty, than because it satisfied his rel^ous 
and moral sense. Again, the notion was attractive and 
beautiful to him that ' Christianity is Art,' and conversely, 
that ' Art is Christianity : * tlurtfore he believed it. And 
it became one of his standing theological canons, which, in 
his sibylline writings, he is for ever reiterating. 

Both in his books and in conversation, Blake was a vehe- 
ment assertor ; very decisive and very obstinate in his 
opinions, when he had at once taken them up. And he was 
impatient of control, or of a law in anything, — in his Art, in 
his opinions on morals, religion, or what not. If artists be 
divided into the disciplined and undisciplined, he must fall 
under the latter category. To this, as well as to entire want 
of discipline in the literary art, was due much of the inco- 
herence in his books and design ; incoherence and wildness, 
which is another source of the general inference embodied 
by Wordsworth and Southey, who knew him only in hrs 
poems, when they described him as a man *of great, but 
undoubtedly insane genius.' If for insane i^^e read undis- 
ciplinedy or ill-balanced, I think we shall hit the truth. 

I have spoken of Blake's daring heterodoxy on religious 
topics. He not only believed in a pre-existent state, but 



MAD OR NOT MAD? 373 

had adopted, or thought out for himself, many of the 
ideas of the early Gnostics ; and was otherwise so erratic 
in his religious opinions as to shock orthodox Churchmen. 
Once, in later years, a disputant got up and left his com- 
pany. ' Ah,' said Blake, * we could not get on at all : he 
wanted to teach me, and I to teach him.' A transcendental 
Christian rather than a literal one, he would often hazard 
wild assertions about Christ ; yet would consider that a 
believer only in His historical character, in reality denied 
Him. * Foi^veness of sins ' was the comer-stone of Chris- 
tianity to Blake's mind. He was for ever inscribing the 
tenet over his Gates of Paradise ^nd elsewhere. The English 
Church, as he thought, too little inculcated it. He had a 
sentimental liking for the Romish Church, and, among other 
paradoxes, would often try to make out that priestly 
despotism was better than kingly. ' He believed no subjects 

* of monarchies were so happy as the Pope's ; ' which sounds 
still more absurd now, than in times nearer those of the 
First Napoleon, when the poor Pope had, for a while, seemed 
the victim, of military force, and an object of l^itimate 
sympathy. Blake's friend may well add : ' I fancy this was 
' one of his wilful sayings, and meant that he believed priests 
' to be more favourable to liberty than kings : which he cer- 
'tainly did. He loved liberty, and had no affection for 
' statecraft or standing armies, yet no man less resembled the 
'vulgar radical. His sympathies were rather with Milton, 
' Harrington, and Marvel — not with Milton as to his puri- 
' tanism, but his love of a grand, ideal scheme of republi- 

* canism ; though I never remember his speaking of the 
' American institutions : I suppose Blake's republic would 
'always have been ideal.' From the short poem entitled 
Thofnes and Ohio (see vol. ii.) it would, however, almost seem 
as if Blake had, at one moment, a passing project of emigrat- 
ing to America. We must assuredly number among his more 
wilful assertions the curious hypothesis, * that the Bonaparte 
' of Italy was killed, and that another was somehow substituted 



374 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

* from the exigent want of the name, who was the Bonaparte 

* of the Empire ! He referred to the different physiognomies 
' (as he thought) in the earlier and later portraits. But, 
'stranger still, he gave me the (forgotten) name of some 
' public man — ambassador, or something of the sort — who 
' assured him such was the case ; and a very plausible story 
' he made of it/ says the same friend. 

Similar latitude of speculation was, as we have seen, 

cultivated on ethics. Practically obedient to moral law, a 

faithful husband, and temperate in all his habits, Blake is 

for ever, in his writings, girding at the * mere moral law,* as 

being the letter which killeth. His conversation on social 

topics, his writings, his designs, were equally marked by 

theoretic licence and virtual guilelessness ; for he frankly 

said, described, and drew everything as it arose to his mind 

' Do you think,' he once said in familiar conversation, and 

in the spirit of controversy, * if I came home and discovered 

' my wife to be unfaithful, I should be so foolish as to take 

' it ill ? * Mrs. Blake was a most exemplary wife, yet was so 

much in the habit of echoing and thinking right whatever he 

said that, had she been present, adds my informant, he is 

sure she would have innocently responded, ' Of course not ! * 

' But,' continues Blake's friend, * I am inclined to think 

' (despite the philosophic boast) it would have gone ill with 

' the offenders.' 



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CHAPTER XXXVI. 

DECLINING HEALTH : DESIGNS TO DANTE. 1824— 1827. 

[iET. 67—70.] 

While the Job was in progress, Blake had, among other 
work, assisted, from August to December, 1824, in engraving 
a portrait from his friend LinnelFs hand, of Mr. Lowry, and 
perhaps in some other plates. It was during this period, 
also, Mr. Linnell introduced him to the knowledge of Dante, 
and commissioned a series of drawings from the Divina Com* 
medtay to be hereafter engraved; justly thinking Blake *the 
'very man and the only* to illustrate the great mediaeval 
master of supernatural awe and terror. While still engaged 
over the engravings to Job, Blake set to work full of energy, 
sketching, while confined to bed by a sprained foot, the first 
outlines of the whole, or^nearly the whole, of this new series, 
in a folio volume of a hundred pages, which Mr. Linnell had 
given him for the purpose. This ^vas during the years 1824 
to 1826. With characteristic fervour and activity of intellect, 
he, at sixty-seven years of age, applied himself to learning 
Italian, in order to read his author in the original. Helped 
by such command of Latin as he had, he taught himself the 
language in a few weeks ; sufficiently, that is, to comprehend 
that difficult author substantially, if not grammatically: just 
as, earlier in life, he had taught himself something of Latin, 
French, and even Greek. 



376 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1824— 1827. 

The drawings after Dante, at first dividing Blake's time 
with the engravings of the Job^ engrossed nearly the whole 
of it during the brief remnant of his life. They amount to 
a hundred in all,; scarcely any quite finished; presenting his 
conceptions in all stages, in fact, from the bare outline to 
high finish. 

These designs (which will be found catalogued, with a few 
remarks, in List No. i of the Annotated Catalogue, vol. iL) 
form the largest series ever undertaken by Blake, except those 
from Young and Gray, which number 537 and 118 subjects 
respectively ; and, from the profound interest and the variety 
and special nature of the subject, not to speak of the merits 
of the designs themselves, they maintain a high rank among 
his performances. It was a great labour for a man of * three- 
score years and ten ' to undertake ; and a labour which, in its 
result, exhibits no symptom of age or feebleness. The de- 
signs, it is true, are scarcely ever carried to full completion, 
and are often extremely slight ; but the power of mind, eye, 
hand — the power of grappling with a new subject matter, 
and making all its parts, so to speak, organic — is in no wise 
dimmed. The conception is not always such as most students 
of Dante will be willing to admit as Dantesque, though cer- 
tainly much more Dantesque than the refined performance 
of Flaxman, or than any other known to me ; it is, at any 
rate, tlie highly creative mind of Dante filtered through the 
highly creative, sympathetic mind of Blake. 

Blake lived to engrave only seven, published in 1827. 
These seven, all from the Hell, are — 

1. The Circle of the Lustful — Paolo and Francesca. 

2. The Circle of the Corrupt Officials — The Devils torment- 
ing Ciampolo. 

3. Same Circle — The Devils mauling each other. 

4. The Circle of the Thieves — Agnolo Brunnelleschi at- 
tacked by the serpent. 

5. Same Circle — Buoso Donati attacked by the serpent. 



JUT. 67-70.1 DECLINING HEALTH: DESIGNS TO DAXTK. 377 

6. The Circle of the Falsifiers. 

7. The Circle of the Traitors— Dante's foot strikiiitj liocca 
dcgli Abati. 




These engravings are, like the designs, iinciiin|>li-t(-(l \\t<\\.: 
They are executed in Blake's strict, shnrp-lincil iiLiiinii , <in<l. 
though they are more than outlines, do mil aim ,it i-nlii> 
finish of hght and shade, or at any strong; rlli-il.. It \\<\\ l>i 
observed, in the list of engravings, th;it the twi) tin li--. .<i ili, 
Corrupt Officials and of the Thieves rea-ivi' a nioif ih.iii |>im 
portionate share of illustration, and 'the s.uiu- i-. -.iill ^^^^<\^ 
strikingly apparent in the list of the c<>ni|ilctc miu". t>i ,1. 
signs. Blake flapped, like a moth round a cnndli'. tliii<* > 



3/8 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1824— 1827. 

time at the grotesqueness of the pitchforked devils, and the 
horror of the transforming serpents. 

The agfreement between the two friends as to the DanU 
was, that Mr. Linnell should go on paying Blake 2L or 3/. a 
week, as he wanted money, Blake doing as little or as much 
as he liked in return. The payments on account amounted 
in the end to 150/. By this truly genial and friendly arrange- 
ment, the ease and comfort of Blake's declining years were 
placed on a sure footing ; which was the object Mr. Linnell 
had at heart. 

These drawings are unique, no duplicates having been 
executed : two of them (as shown in the Appendix) are 
known in a preparatory stage also. They still remain in 
the congenial keeping of their first owner, and have never 
been engraved, except the seven just mentioned, nor otherwise 
made use of. 

While, in 1825, the designs from Dante were progressing, I 
find Mr. Linnell a purchaser also of twelve drawings from- 
Milton's Paradise Regaitud, a sequel to those from the 
Paradise Losty executed for Mr. Butts, which are now scat- 
tered in various hands. Mr. Linnell had unsuccessfully 
endeavoured to persuade the jovial, affluent Chantrey, to buy 
the Paradise Regained for ;^20. They are of great beauty, re- 
fined in execution, especially tender and pure in colour, and 
pervading feeling. Like all Mr. Linnell's other purchases 
from Blake, they have been retained by him. 

A letter from Blake, in November, 1825, shows him still 
adding final touches to the plates of the Job. It is addressed 
John Linnell, Esq., Cirencester Place, Fitzroy Square, and 
is dated Thursday Evening, lotk Nov, 1825, from Fountain 
Court, Strand: — 

Dear Sir, 

I have, I believe, done nearly all that we agreed on- And if 
you should put on your considering cap, just as you did last time we 
met, I have no doubt that the plates would be all the better for 
it I cannot get well, and am now in bed, but seem as if I should 



JtT. 67— 7a] DECLINING HEALTH : DESIGNS TO DANTE. 379 

be better to-morrow. Rest does me good Pray take care of 

your health this wet weather ; and though I write, do not venture 

out on such days as to-day has been. I hope a few more days will 

bring us to a conclusion. 

I am, dear Sir, 

Yours sincerely, 

William Blake. 

Among the new friends to whom Mr. LinncU had intro- 
duced Blake was Mr. Aders, a wealthy merchant of an old 
German family ; a liberal and art-loving man, whose doors 
were always open to literary men and artists. To his house 
came Coleridge and Lamb and, as we saw, Lawrence, James 
Ward, Stothard, Linnell ; finally Blake, with whom, I think, 
Coleridge here became acquainted. Of Blake Mr. Aders 
bought copies of the Songs of Innocence and Experience and 
a few others of the illustrated books. His house in Euston 
Square was filled with pictures, chosen with excellent judg- 
ment, of a class not commonly selected in those days, viz. : 
examples of the early Italian and, above all, early Flemish 
and German schools. It was as much a picture gallery as a 
house. The walls of drawing-room, bed-rooms, and even 
staircase, were all closely covered ; with gallery railings in 
front to protect the pictures from injury. The collection 
was a remarkable and celebrated one, and has left I Anting 
traces of itself in the history of picture-collecting. It com- 
prised many works deeply interesting in the annalH ot 
painting. Among these was a fine old copy of the fjinu)iiii 
Adoration of t/u Lamb, of Hubert and Jan van ICyck ; ono 
of the chief landmarks in the history of Art (liubert'd moIo 
surviving composition). In this a>py — formerly in tlir IIAtrl 
de Ville, Ghent — could be alone »ccn the effect of the wltttr- 
piece as a whole ; for the various compart tnentti, liotli of tlio 
original and of Coxae's copy, arc widely ficatlcfed. 'I'hrrr wrri« 
several other predous and authentic picturen of the mcJiooI 
of the Van Eycks : a very interestifig nmnW ultiir'pifec, 
attributed to Margaretta van Kyck, t^t «inc(t fiMlg to 



380 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1824-1827. 

Quintin Matsys ; the Portrait of an Artist, by Hans 
Memling, or, as some say, Dierick Stuerbout, afterwards in 
Mr. Roger's collection ; one or two undoubted small pieces 
from the hand of Hans Memling, some in the school of 
Roger Vander Weyden, and one of the dozen (or fewer) 
certain examples of Martin Schon known to exist 

The collection was visited by Fassavant, the biog^pher of 
Raphael, during his visit to England in 1831, and the 
Flemish and German portion of it is described at l^igth 
in his Tour of a German Artist. It is characteristic of our 
National Gallery management, that not one of .these often 
invaluable examples of rare masters was secured for the 
nation (it was the rigitne of Seguier, of liquorice-brown var- 
nish fame), when the opportunity arose. For, in a subsequent 
year, — 1836, — a terrible reverse in trade shattered the fabric 
of the munificent merchant's prosperity, and involved the 
dispersion of this interesting collection. 

Mrs. Aders, a daughter of Raphael Smith, the engraver and 
painter, was herself an amateur artist, sufficiently mistress of 
painting to execute clever copies after the old masters, and 
original pictures which extorted the praise of Blake — always 
candid to amateur merit. She was a beautiful and accom- 
plished lady, of much conversational power, able to hold her 
own with the gifted men who were in the habit of frequenting 
her house. It is to her Coleridge's poem of The Two Founts 
was addressed. 

After the ruin of her husband's fortunes she withdrew 
from society, d3nng only a few years since. She remembered 
Blake with especial interest, and to the last delighted to 
talk of him. 

At Mr. Aders* house the German painter, Gotzenberger, 
met Blake. On his return to Germany he declared : ' I saw 
' in England many men of talent, but only three men of 
' genius— Coleridge, Flaxman, and Blake ; and of these Blake 
' was the greatest.' There, too, a gentleman first saw Blake, 
whom, so long ago as 1 809, we beheld a solitary visitor to the 



XT, 67—70.] MR. CRABB ROBINSON'S REMINISCENCES. 38 1 

abortive exhibition in Broad Street; and who was, in 18 10, 
writing an account of the memorable man for the Patriotische 
Annalen of good Dr. Perthes, of Hamburg. Mr. Crabb 
Robinson, a gentleman who began life as a barrister, but 
who, throughout his career, cultivated the acquaintance 
of distinguished men of letters, had, during twenty years, 
heard much of Blake from Flaxman. The sculptor, if he did 
not go so far as to speak of him as an actual seer, was still 
further from joining in the ordinary derision of him as a 
madman. But it was not till 1825 that Mr. Crabb Robinson 
met the visionary man, at Mr. Aders' table in the company 
of Mr. Linnell. ' This was on the loth December,' writes 
Mr. Robinson, in the very interesting Reminiscences (based on 
his Journals), with the sight of a portion of which I have 
been kindly favoured. His account of Blake is from a point 
of view widely different from those of the artist's enthusiastic 
young disciples, yet, in all essentials, corroborates them. 
Many of the extravagances and incoherences recorded as 
falling from Blake's lips at these interviews indicate, to one 
familiar with his habits of mind, that he was often, in the 
course of them, ruffled by his friendly but very logical and 
cool-headed interlocutor into extreme statements. He 
allowed himself to be drawn out pretty considerably, but 
not with closed eyes. 

' . . . I was aware of bis idiosyncrasies, and therefore I was, to a 

* great degree, prepared for the sort of conversation which took place 
' at and after dinner : an altogether unmethodical rhapsody on art, 
' poetry, religion ; he saying the most strange things in the most 

* unemphatic manner, speaking of his visions as any man would of 

* the most ordinary occurrence. He was then sixty-eight years of 

* age. He had a broad pale face, a large full eye, with a benignant 

* expression, — at the same time a look of languor, except when ex- 

* cited ; and then he had an air of inspiration ; but not such as, with- 

* out previous acquaintance with him^ or attending to what he said^ 

* would suggest the notion that he was insane^ 

The italics are mine. Mr. Robinson, I should mention, was 
among those who thought Blake to have been an ' insane man 



382 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1824— 1827. 

* of genius/ or, at any rate, a victim of monomania ; and was 
the only one to think so of all I have met who actually knew 
anything of him. 

* There was nothing wi/d about his looks. Though very ready to 
' be drawn out to the assertion of his favourite ideas, yet there was 
' no warmth, as if he wanted to make proselytes. Indeed, one of 
' the peculiar features of his scheme, as far as it was consistent, was 

* indifference, and a very extraordinary degree of tolerance and 

* satisfaction with what had taken place — a sort of pious and humble 

* optimism ; not the scornful optimism of Candide. But at the same 
' time that he was very ready to praise, he seemed incapable of envy, 
*■ as he was of discontent He warmly praised some compositions of 

* Mrs. Aders' \ and having brought for A. an engraving of his Canter- 

* bury Pilgrims, he remarked that one of the figures resembled a 

* figure in one of the works then in Aders' room, and that he had 

* been accused of having stolen from it But he added that he had 

* drawn the figure in question twenty years before he had seen the 
/ original picture. ** However, there is no wonder in the resemblance, 
' as in my youth I was always studying that class of paintings." I 
'have forgotten what the figure was. But his taste was in close 

* conformity with the old German school. This was somewhat at 

* variance with what he said, both this day and afterwards, — implying 

* that he copied his visions. 

* It was at this first meeting that, in answer to a question from me 
' he said, " The Spirits told me." This led me to say : «« Socrates 

* used pretty much the same language — he spoke of his Genius. 

* Now, what affinity or resemblance do you suppose was there be- 

* tween the Genius which inspired Socrates and your Spirits f " He 

* smiled, and for once it seemed to me as if he had a feeling of 
'vanity gratified. "The same as in our countenances." He 
' paused and added : " I was Socrates, or a sort of brother. I 

* must have had conversations with him. So I had with Jesus Christ ; 
' I have an obscure recollection of having been with both of them." 

* As I had for many years been familiar with the idea that an eternity 

* a parte post was inconceivable without an eternity a parte ante, I 

* was naturally led to express that thought on this occasion. His eye 

* brightened on my saying this. He eagerly assented — ** To be 

* sure I We are all coexistent with God ; members of the Divine 

* Body, and partakers of the Divine Nature." . . . 

* . . . From something Blake said, drawing the inference, — then 



JET, 67— 7a] MR. CRABB ROBINSON'S REMINrSCENCES. 383 

'there is no use in education, — he hastily rejoined : "There is no 
' use in education — I hold it wrong — it is the great Sin ; it is eating 

* of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. That was the fault of 

* Plato : he knew of nothing but the virtues and vices. There is 

* nothing in all that. Everything is good in God's eyes." On my 

* asking whether there is nothing absolutely evil in what man does, 
*he answered: "I am no judge of that — perhaps not in God's 
*eyes." Nothwithstanding this, he, however, at the same time, 

* spoke of error as being in Heaven ; for on my asking whether 

* Dante was pure in writing his Vision, — " Pure ! " said Blake, " is 

* there any purity in God's eyes ? No I He chargeth His angels 

* with folly." He even extended this liability to error to the Supreme 

* Being. ** Did He not repent Him that He had made Nineveh ? " 

* My ybuma/ here has the remark that it is easier to retail his personal 

* remarks than to reconcile those which seemed to be in conformity 

* with the most opposed abstract systems.' 

Perhaps, indeed, the attempt to methodise them into a 
system was so much labour lost ? The key to the wild and 
strange rhapsodies Blake would utter can be supplied by 
love, but not by the intellect. To £;o with Blake, it almost 
required that a man should have the mind of an artist — and 
an artist of a peculiar kind — or one strongly in unison with 
that class of mind. 

* He spoke with seeming complacency of his own life in connection 

* with art. In becoming an artist he acted by command : the Spirits 

* said to him, *' Blake, be an artist ! " His eye glistened while he 

* spoke of the joy of devoting himself to divine art alone. " Art 
' is inapiration. When Michael Angelo, or Raphael, in their day, or 

* Mr. Flazman, does one of his fine things, he does them in the 
' spirit" Of fame he said : " I should be sorry if I had any earthly 

* fame, for whatever natural glory a man has is so much detracted 

* fix>m his spiritual glory. I wish to do nothing for profit ; I want 
'nothing; I am quite happy." This was confirmed to nic on my 

* subsequent interviews with him. His distinction between the 
'natural and spiritual worlds was very confused. locidcntAlly, 

* Swedenborg was mentioned :— he declared him to be a Divine 
'teacher; he had done, and would do, much good: ycl he did 
« wrong in endeavouring to explain to the JReason what it could 

* not comprehend. He seemed to consider - but that wan mil 



384 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1824—1827. 

clear — the visions of Swedenborg and Dante as of the same kind. 
Dante was the greater poet He, too, was wrong,— in occupying 
his mind about political objects. Yet this did not appear to affect 
his estimation of Dante's genius, or his opinion of the truth of 
Dante's visions. Indeed, when he even declared Dante to be 
an atheist, it was accompanied by expression of the hii^hest 
admiration; "though," said he, "Dante saw devils where 
I saw none." 

' I put down in my journal the following insulated remarks : Jacob 
Boehmen was placed among the divinely inspired men. He praised 
also the designs to Law's Translation of Boehmen. ** Michael 
Angelo could not have surpassed them." — "Bacon, Locke, and 
Newton, are the three great teachers of atheism, or Satan's doctrine." 
— " Irving is a highly gifted man : he is a sen/ man ; but they who 
are sent sometimes go further than they ought." " I saw nothing 
but good in Calvin's house ; in Luther's there were harlots." ... He 
declared his opinion that the earth is flat, not round, and just as I 
had objected, — the circumnavigation, — dinner was announced. Ob- 
jections were seldom of any use. The wildest of his assertions 
was made with the veriest indifference of tone, as if altogether 
insignificant It respected the natural and spiritual worlds. By 
way of example of the difference between them, he said : " You 
never saw the spiritual Sun? I have. I saw him on Primrose 
Hill. He said, Do you take me for the Greek Apollo? No! 
That (pointing to the sky), fhat is the Greek Apollo : he is Satan." 
Not everything was thus absurd. There were glimpses and flashes 
of truth and beauty : as when he compared moral with physical evil 
— " Who shall say what God thinks evil ? That is a wise tale of the 
Mahomedans, — of the angel of the Lord who murdered the In&nt" 
(The Hermit of Pamell, I suppose.) " Is not every infant that dies 
a natural death in reality slain by an angel ? " And when he joined 
to the assurance of his happiness that of his having suffered, and 
that it was necessary, he added : " There is suffering in Heaven ; 
for where there is the capacity of enjoyment, there is the capacity 
of pain." I include among the glimpses of truth this assertion : 
** I know what is true by internal conviction ; — a doctrine is stated ; 
my heart tells me it must ht, true." I remarked, in confirmation 
of it, that, to an unlearned man, what are called the external 
evidences of religion can carry no conviction with them ; and this 
he assented to. 

'After my first evening with him at Aders', I made the remark in 



MX. 67—70^1 MR. CRABB ROBINSON'S REMIX ISCEXCES, 385 



*my yimmal^ that lus obserratioDS, apart iiom his visions and 

* references to the spiritual world, were sensible and acute. In the 
*• sweetness of his countenance and gentility of his manner, he added 
*an indescribable grace to his conversation. I added my r^ret, 
*• which I must now repeat, at my inability to give more than inco- 

* herent thoughts — ^not altogether my &ult, perhaps. 

'On the 17th, I called on him at his house in Fountain Court in 
' the Strand. The interview was a short one, and what I saw was 

* more remarkable than what I heard. He was at work, engraving, 

* in a small bedroom, — ^light, and looking out on a mean yard — 

* everything in the room squalid and indicating poverty, except hint- 

* self. There was a natural gentility about him, and an insensibility 

* to the^ seeming poverty, which quite removed the impression. 
' Besides, his linen was clean, his hand white, and his air quite un- 
< embarrassed when he begged me to sit down as if he were in a 
' palace. There was but one chair in the room, besides that on which 
' he sat. On my putting my hand to it, I found that it would have 

* fallen to pieces if I had lifted it. So, as if I had been a Sybarite, 

* I said, with a smile, " Will you let me indulge myself? '* and sat on 

* the bed near him. During my short stay there was nothing in him 
' that betrayed that he was aware of what, to other persons, might 

* have been even offensive, — not in his person, but in all about him. 
' Hb wife I saw at this time, and she seemed to be the very woman 

* to make him happy. She had been formed by him ; indeed olhcr- 
•wise she could not have lived with him. Notwithstanding her 
' dresS) which was poor and dirty, she had a good cxprcsiion in hrr 
'countenance, and, with a dark eye, remains of beauty from hor 
' youth. She had an implicit reverence for her husband. It In i)uito 

* certain that she believed in all his visions. On one occAiiion-^ not 

* this day — speaking of his visions, she said : " You know, dear, th«» 
' first time you saw God was when you were four years old, and He 
' put His head to the window, and set you screaming/' . . . 

*He was making designs, or engraving— I forget whirh. V\\\^\ 
' 2>aii/f was before hiuL He showed me some of \m (IrMignii fnnn 

* Dante, erf" which I do not presume to speak. Tlicy wrri« too tnni \\ 
' above me. But Gotzenberger, whom I aftcrwardw took Xa urn ilimi. 
' expressed the highest admiration. . . . Dante wan u^uin thr miiIijim i 
•of our conversation. Blake declared him a min; poliiinMii iiiiil 
'atheist, busied about thb wr^rld's affair») an Milton wim till, hi 
'his old age, he returned Ijack U> the i\^A \\v. \m\ iil/MrMloiii>l In 

* childhood I, in vain, endeavoured to oUain Uti%%% him a f|iiMhf)i niioii 

VOL. I. /I 



386 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1824— 1827. 

' of the term atheist, so as not to include him in the ordinary reproach. 
' Yet he afterwards spoke of Dante's being then with Grod. I was 
' more successful when he also called Locke an atheist/ and imputed 
' to him wilful deception. He seemed satisfied with my admissioD, 
' that Locke's philosophy led to the atheism of the French school 
' He reiterated his former strange notions on morals — ^would allow of 
' no other education than what lies in the cultivation of the fine arts 
' and the imagination. 
' As he spoke of frequendy seeing Milton, I ventured to ask, half 

* ashamed at the time, which of the three or four portraits in Hollis's 
' Memoirs was the most like ? He answered : " They are all like, at 
' different ages. I have seen him as a youth, and as an old man, 
' with long flowing beard. He came lately as an old man. He came 
' to ask a favour of me ; said he had committed an error in his 

* Paradise Lost^ which he wanted me to correct in a poem or picture. 

* But I declined ; I said I had my own duties to perform." '^ It is a 
' presumptuous question,** I replied, '' but might I venture to ask 
' what that could be ? " ^ He wished me to expose the falsehood 
' of his doctrine taught in the Paradise Lost, that sexual intercourse 
' arose out of the Fall." ... At the time that he asserted his own 
' possession of the gift of vision, he did not boast of it as peculiar 

* to himself: '* All men might have it if they would." 

• On the 24th December I called a second time on him. On this 

* occasion it was that I read to him Wordsworth's Ode on the sup- 

* posed pre-existent state {Intimations of Immortality). The subject of 
•Wordsworth's religious character was discussed when we met on 
'the 18th of February, and the 12th of May (1826). I will here 
' bring together Blake's declarations concerning Wordsworth. I had 
' been in the habit, when reading this marvellous Ode to friends, of 
' omitting one or two passages, especially that — 

— '• But there's a Tree, of many, one, 
A single Field which I have looked upon. 
Both of them speak of something that is gone : 

The Pansy at my feet 

Doth the same tale repeat: 
Whither is fled the visionary gleam? 
Where is it now, the glory and the dream ? " 

* lest I should be rendered ridiculous, being unable to explain pre- 
' cisely what I admired. Not that I acknowledged this to be a fair 

* test. But with Blake I could fear nothing of the kind. And it 



MT. 67— Tal MR. CRABB ROBINSON'S REMINISCENCES. 387 

*was this very stanza which threw him almost into an hysterical 
'lapture. His delight in Wordsworth's poetry was intense. Nor 

* did it seem less, notwithstanding the reproaches he continually cast 

* on his wcvship of nature ; which, in the mind of Blake, constituted 
' atheism* The combination of the warmest praise with imputations 
' which, from another, would assume the most serious character, and 

* the liberty he took to interpret as he pleased, rendered it as difficult 

* to be offended as to reason with him. The eloquent descriptions 

* of nature in Wordsworth's poems were conclusive proofs of atheinm : 
' ** For whoever believes in nature," said B., '* disbelieves in God ; 
' for Nature is the work of the devil." On my obtaining from him 
' the declaration that the Bible was the Word of God, I referred to 
' the commencement of Genesis^ ^ In the beginning God created the 

* heavens and the earth." But I gained nothing by this ; for I was 
' triumphantly told that this God was not Jehovah, but the Klohim ; 

* and the doctrine of the Gnostics was repeated with sufficient con- 
' sistency to silence one so unlearned as mysel£ The Preface to The 
^Excursum, especially the verses quoted from Book I. of The Redute^ 

* so troubled him as to bring on a fit of illness. Those lines he 
' singled out : — 

** Jehovah — ^with His thunder, and the choir 
Of shouting angels, and the empyreal thrones 
I pass diem onalarmed." 

* " Docs Mr. W. think he can surpass Jehovah ? ** There wa» a copy 
' of the whole passage in his own hand in the voltime c/f V/ouUwuuWn 
'poems retomed to my chambers after his fleath« There wan this 
'note at the end — ^"Solomon, when he married Fharaoh'n d«ii|(1itrr, 
' and became a convert to the heathen mythology, tatkrd rxAifly In 
'th» way of Jehovah — as a very inferior o\>]ttX tA man's //iiif^miilrt 
'tioDs: he ako pasMd Him *' unalarmed," aM wm \ifw\\\M^i\> 

* Jehovah dfoppcd a tear and followed him, \fy \\\n %\nu\t \u\u llm 

* abstract void. It is called the lAvinc tt^etfj, Hf»rnh /Iwi^lU in \l, 
'bat mercy docs not dwcfl in him/* Hotne of th/; [ttfrttm \tt\ foniM 
' tained were from the Holy Ghont, f,thf:r% itf/tu th^; li«t:vil | li.ni 
'him die 8vo editioo, in two voU, (t'^^tf^f, t4 W/« \i4tr.iun, wtii' ti tm 
' had in his powcswoo at the tnne of hi^ iU-.u^h 1 h^y w«if» 9tiimunt\ 
' to me then. I &1 not recognue fh« penAi) n//t^« }**- huA intiiU Im 

them to be his for some time, and w^n fm fU^ ff/riM fi4 fu\tU\hK ItiftM* 
' out when I made the ^sMoyrery ; a^*/] th^ w^r* ^/r^MtrvMl ' 



388 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1824— 1827. 

Mr. Crabb Robinson was not only a friend and admirer of 
Wordsworth, but among the believers, — fewer then than now, 
— in the new poetic revelation to be found in his works. The 
edition of 181 5 was the first in which Wordsworth's poems 
were arranged into classes ; and contained the celebrated new 
Preface on the various distinctive characteristics of p)oetry, 
as well as the celebrated Preface and Supplementary Essay, 
first printed in the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads, 
Blake's notes extend over the first volume only: they are 
characteristic iterations, according to his wont, of favourite 
dogmas. 

In the Preface to the edition of 1815 Wordsworth writes, 
* The powers requisite for the production of poetry are, first, 
those of observation and description.' 'One power alone 
makes a poet,' answers Blake, — * Imagination ; the Divine 
Vision/ On the line — 

'Bound each to each by natural piety,' 

Blake comments — 'There is no such thing as natural piety, 
because the natural man is at enmity with God.' And again, 
on the fly-leaf, under the heading, — Poems referring to tlu 
Period of Childlwod, — * I see in Wordsworth the natural man 

* rising up against tlie spiritual man continually ; and then he 

* is no poet, but a heathen philosopher, at enmity with all true 
' poetry or inspiration.' At the end of the divine poem To 
H. C. Six Years Old, he exclaims : ' This is all in the highest 

* degree imaginative, and equal to any poet, but not superior. 

* I cannot think that real poets have any competition. None 
' are greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It is so in poetry.' 
Against the heading, ' On the Influence of Natural Objects,' 
— to the frost scene from the then unpublished Prelude, we 
have the singular, yet (to one who has the key to Blake's 
peculiar temperament) not unintelligible avowal : * Natural 
' objects always did, and now do, weaken, deaden, and ob- 

* literate imagination in me. Wordsworth must know that 



^T. 67—70.] DECLINING HEALTH: DESIGNS TO DANTE. 389 

' what he writes valuable is not to be found in nature. Read 

* Michael Angelo's Sonfut, vol ii. page 179' (of this edition). 

*No mortal object did these eyes behold 
When first they met the placid light of thine, 
And my Soul felt her destiny divine. 
And hope of endless peace in me grew bold : 
Heaven-bom, the Soul a heavenward coarse must hold; 
Beyond the visible world she soars to seek 
(For what delights the sense is false and weak) 
Ideal Fonn, the universal mould. 
The wise man, I affiim, can find no rest 
In that which perishes: nor will he lend 
His heart to aught which doth on time depend. 
Tis sense, unbridled will, and not true love, 
That kills the soul: love betters what is best. 
Even here below, but more in heaven above.' 

In the margin of the Essay Supplementary to the Preface, 
against the words, ' By this time I trust the judicious reader,' 
Blake audaciously writes, ' I do not know who wrote these 
' Prefaces : they are very mischievous, and direct contrary to 
' Wordsworth's own practice.' At p. 341 : ' This is not the de- 
' fence of his own style in opposition to what is called poetic 

* diction, but a sort of historic vindication of the unpopular 

* poets.' Blake*s disparaging view of the Prefaces is not 
'shared by myself; but no less a critic than Shelley, one of 

Wordsworth's warmest contemporary admirers — though out- 
raged by the poet's political and other delinquencies — in his 
wicked, random skit of Peter Bell the Third (18 19), also 
disrespectfully describes Wordsworth, as in these Prefaces, — 

' Writing some sad stuff in prose : 
It is a dangerous invasion 
When poets criticise; their station 
Is to delight, not pose.' 

At the end of the Supplementary Essay Blake again breaks 
out : ' It appears to me as if the last paragraph, beginning 
' with ^ Is it the result of the whole that, in the opinion of the 



390 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1S24--1S27. 

* writer, the judgment of the people is not to be respected ?" 
' was writ by another hand and mind from the rest of these 

* Prefaces. Perhaps they are the opinion of a landscape- 
' painter. Imagination is the divine vision, not of the world, 
' nor of man, nor from man, — as he is a natural man. 
' Imagination has nothing to do with memory.' 

In these years Blake's health was rapidly failing. He was 
a perpetual sufferer from intermittent attacks of cold and 
dysentery (evidently), as his letters to Mr. Linnell show. 
The letters would never, in fact, have been written, but for 
illness on his part, and Mr. Linnell's residence at Hampstead. 
f So long as their writer was well, and Mr. Linnell always in 
Cirencester Place, there had been no occasion for letters. 
They are characteristic, and explain what he suffered from. 
Here is one : — 

February 1st, 1826. 

Dear Sir, — 

I am forced to write, because I cannot come to you. 
And this on two accounts. JFirsf, 1 omitted to desire you 
would come and take a mutton chop with us the day you go 
to Cheltenham, and I will go with you to the coach. Also, 
I will go to Hampstead to see Mrs. Linnell on Sunday, but 
will return before dinner (I mean if you set off before that). 
And second^ I wish to have a copy of yob to show to Mr. 
Chantrey. 

For I am again laid up by a cold in my stomach. The Hamp- 
stead air, as it always did, so I fear it always will do this, except it 
be the morning air : and that, in my cousin's time, I found I could 
bear with safety, and perhaps benefit. I believe my constitution 
to be a good one, but it has many peculiarities that no one but 
myself can know. When I was young, Hampstead, Highgate, 
Homsey, Muswell Hill, and even Islington, and all places north of 
London, always laid me up the day after, and sometimes two or 
three days, with precisely the same complaint, and the same 
torment of the stomach ; easily removed, but excruciating while it 
lasts, and enfeebling for some time after. Sir Francis Bacon 
would say, it is want of discipline in mountainous places. Sir 
Francis Bacon is a liar : no discipline will turn one man into 
another, even in the least particle; and such discipline I call 



tatiocs 

a irifgiai 



-«t- 



jaa kzcw 



Lti:: 



V -__ c 



and '»t± is ^rvirsrir^?: ZKm.2Shzx p^.-- i: 
entries : — 

* that *ae2aouc * -sc V j^r flr' >,r. ja- i^ — : . . *. r.- 

' in h," — se TJBiiff g^^^* t3rjvm.r^ z^rr '^^-.- *-=:« .•r.^*i-< 

* to giacey -"^ ikt ii^ a*?: -x ii^ -.-^--.r^.- ^r-x--is >- . 

* quafiiedaaif. » tat ssshj^ ir^irj^tr •^.•«'. *« . .^^ ..... -^ « 

* he laid, br 4er::anxff -rua- :« :s*5*rrrji-»< \-^ ^ >- t -,^- . 
'sense. As v, iut xsnss. jcsik. ' " -rittv •:. rrt.^^-- _•-<: 
•God to ex;K«e «*tf: I -.at-* is*-- *r a«.r. t: .-^ -.. *r-,,.^- 

* with Vohan, asfi se tsui -n s#i: / .^n.'^'s^mm-.^ :. ,r^ r ^. ^ 

* and ii shall fe it^^.aL «e '.-ir ^^ ■ i^ -r-»r-- <: c " > -<*>- 
^ NaspheMtd ike Hvlj S-wer jr hgt c^hC : ^^.. «^ ^ v^*-^ 

All the Spcrit r 5t wii -rrj:./v» -s.^ -: t-*- ; 
To resume: — 






* ingenou^ and pn^ sc em^vjs 



•key: he touched it ;rvur^ J-^^... _■ ,, 3^. ^ ^^^^^ 
«Eng^'' I ako 'isfji;^^^ a ; tai^ ,^^ ^.^., ^ ,, . ^ 

* the penoos who a^^^ar^ 7; -iim. jr--: ^.^-.v' *^. j' <.^ ^, 
•^nnpr them? *It a rxc v^jnt »-:.> '^^jV- 
' many, the labow w»>i he •« ^« ^r^, v^ 

* use in it" 



392 



LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 



[1824— 1827. 



Blake evidently began to feel himself a little badgered, and 
not insensible that he was under the hands of a cross- 
examining, though courteous, lawyer. For, as we know, he 
did, at times, make portraits of spiritual visitants. 

' In answer to an inquiry about Shakspeare : " He is exactly like 
the old engraving — which is said to be a bad one; I think it 
very good." I mquired about his own writings. " I have written," 
he answered, ** more than Rousseau or Voltaire ; six or seven epic 
poems as long as Homer's, and twenty tragedies as long as 
Macbeth" He showed me his Version of Genesis, for so it may 
be called, as understood by a Christian Visionary. He read a 
wild passage in a sort of Biblical style. '* I shall print no more," 
he said. " When I am commanded by the spirits, then I write ; 
and the moment I have written, I see the words fly about the 
room in all directions. It is then pubh'shed. The spirits can 
read, and my MS. is of no further use. I have been tempted 
to bum my MSS., but my wife won't let me." "She is right," 
I answered. "You wrote not from yourself, but from higher 
order. The MSS. are their property, not yours. You cannot 
tell what purpose they may answer." This was addressed ad 
hominem, and indeed amounted only to a deduction from his 
own premises. He incidentally denied causation : everything 
being the work of God or Devil. " Every man has a devil in 
himself; and the conflict between this Self and God perpetually 
carrying on." I ordered of him to-day a copy of his Songs for 
five guineas. My manner of receiving his mention of price pleased 
him. He spoke of his horror of money, and of turning pale 
when it was ofiered him. And this was certainly unfeigned* 

Blake's visitor made the purchase simply as a delicate 
means of assisting the artist. From the same motive, he 
bought some other books and drawings ; but, though he had 
expressly asked for them, experienced the greatest difficulty 
in getting Blake to accept money. The latter wished to 
present them. Poor Blake ! 

Next in order of date comes another letter to Mr. Linnell : — 

19M May, 1826. 

Dear Sir, — 

I have had another desperate shivering fit It came on 
yesterday afternoon — after as good a moming as I ever experienced. 



MT. 67—70.] DECLINING HEALTH : DESIGNS TO DANTE. 393 

It began by a gnawing pain in the stomach, and soon spread a 
deadly feel all over the limbs, which brings on the shivering fit; 
when I am forced to go to bed, where I contrive to get into 
a little perspiration, which takes it quite away. It was night when 
it left me ; so I did not get up. But just as I was going to rise 
this morning, the shivering fit attacked me again, and the pain 
with the accompan)ring deathly feel. I got again into a perspi- 
ration, and was well again, but so much weakened that I am still 
in bed. This entirely prevents me from the pleasure of seeing 
you on Sunday at Hampstead, as I fear the attack again when 
I am away from home. 

I am, dear Sir, 

Yours sincerely, 

William Blake. 

Friday Evening. 

An entry in Mr. Crabb Robinson's youmaly a few weeks 
later, refers to Blake — 

13M Jufu, 1826. 

* I saw him again. He was as wild as ever, says my yournoL 

* But he was led to-day to make assertions more palpably mis- 

* chievous, if capable of influencing other minds, and immoral, 

* supposing them to express the will of a responsible agent, than 

* anything he had said before.' 

Which must be taken to signify that Blake and his visitor 
were at cross purposes, and the former not in a serene frame 
of mind ; but in a mood to kick out, leaving his listener to 
make sense of his wild speech as best he could. 

During the summer Mr. Linnell, who showed a truly filial 
solicitude for his friend, proposed taking lodgings for him in 
the neighbourhood of his own cottage at Hampstead, which 
his growing family pretty well filled. To this project and its 
postponement, the three following letters refer : — 

2nd July ^ 1826. 

My dearest Friend, — 

This sudden cold weather has cut up all my hopes by 
the roots. Every one who knows of our intended flight into your 
delightful country concurs in saying, Do not venture till summer 
appears again. I also feel myself weaker than I was aware, being 



. 394 UTB OP^WILUAM BLAKE. [iSh^iSj^. 

not Mtf ai yet» to at up longer than lix horns at a tioie; ind 

also fed the cold too mnch to dare Taitnre beyond my preaeat 

prediicti. Mf heartiest thanks far your caie in mj aooonuBod^ 

tion, and the trouble jon will yet have with me. But I fet better 

-and sUo n get every day, though weaker in smade and bone dian I 

supposed As to pleasantness of prospect, it is all pleasant 

prospect at North EndL Misl Huzd'k (the lodgingi of Mr. LinneB 

before he went to CdUns' Farm) I should like aa wdl as any; 

but diink of die eiqiense, and how it may be qiaied, and never 

mind appearanoe& 

I intend to bring widi me, besides our necessaiy change of 

apparel, only my book of dmwi^gs from Dante, and one plate 

shut up in the book. All wDl go very well in the coach, vdiich, at 

present, would be a rumble I fear I could not go through. So diat 

I coixJnde another week must pass before I dare venture upon 

what I ardently desire^ — the seeing ]rou with your happy fiunilj 

once agam, and that for a longer period than I had ever hoped in 

my healAfid hours. 

I am, dear Sir, 

Yours most gratefully, 

William Buuub. 

5M yiify, 1826. 
Dear Sir, — 

I thank you for the receipt of five pounds this mornings 
and congratulate ytm on the receipt of another fine boy. Am g^ 
to hear of Mrs. Linnell's health and safeqr. 

I am getting better every hour. My plan is diet only; but if 
the machine is capable of it, shall make an old man yet I go 
on just as if perfectly well, which indeed I am, except in those 
paroxysms, which I now believe will never more return. Pray let 
your own health and convenience put all solicitude concerning me 
at rest You have a fomily ; I have none : there is no comparison 
between our necessary avocations. 

'Believe me to remain, dear Sir, 

Yours sincerely, 

WiLUAM Blake. 

16/i yt$fy, 1S26. 
Dear Sir, — 

I have been, ever since taking Dr. Young's addition to 

Mr. Fincham's prescription for me (the addition is dandelion), in a 



icr. 67— 90.] DECLinXG HEALTH : DESiCKS TO DAKTE. 39$ 



spedes of defimai, and is pain too iich for llMnghr. It is now 
past : as I hope. Biittibe mtmnrmi I got ease of bo<^bcgm padn 
of mind, and that aot a ssall one. It is about the name of dbe 
chOd, wfaich oettaiidy oo^ to be Thomasi aficr Ifn. limiefi's 
faaha. It win be bnital, sot to aj woatj m mj opimoB and od 
my put. Vtxf xeooDsider it, if it is not too late. It way amdi 
troables me, as a uime m vUdi I risall be dbe |winci|aL Vtxf 
excuse dus heaitj eiposflation, and bdieve me to be, 

Yoan siooerdj, 

WlIXiAM BUUDE. 



P.S. — Fmdiam is a pupil of Abenetbjr^s. This is what gives 
me great plcasme. I did sot knov h bdbce jestevd^, — from Mr. 
Fiscfaam. 

The diild was .to have been named after the artist as a 
mark of friendly re^>ect ; but was eventually called James, 
and the fulfilment of the intention postponed till the birth of 
the next boy, who did take Blake's name. Both brothers 
were destined to became iamous in the picture-loving worlds 
The art of landscape-painting will be indd>ted not only to 
the John Linnell whom two generations have delighted, and 
many more will delight to honour, but to the Linnell family 
collectively. Time after time, James and William Ltnndl 
have evinced capabilities which might carry them onward to 
almost any point of attainment in the art. In both we 
recognise keen, fresh, strong feeling, vivid perception, plen- 
teous, expressive, sometimes startling realisation ; qualities 
which they are able to develop and combine in a ibrm equally 
grateful to the ruralist and to the lover of art 

Ui August, \%ih. 
Dear Sir, — 

If this notice should be too short iot your convtnittKtf 
please to let me know. But finding myself well enough to come, 
I propose to set out from here as soon after ten as we can on 
Thursday morning. Our carriage will be a cabriolet (a vehicle, 
like the hackney coach, extinct these forty years, in which the 
driver sat on a sort of perch beside his (are). For thou^ getting 



396 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1824— 1827. 

better and stronger, I am still incapable of riding in the stage, 
and shall be, I fear, for some time; being only bones and sinews, 
all strings and bobbins like a weaver's loom. Walking to and 
from the stage would be, to me, impossible ; though I seem 
well, being entirely free both from pain and from that sickness to 
which there is no name. Thank Godl I feel no more of it, 
and have great hopes that the disease is gone. 

I am, dear Sir, 

Yours sincerely, 

William Blare. 

The visit to Hampstead was paid, but with little of the 
anticipated benefit to Blake's health, who was then suffering 
from diarrhcea, or, perhaps, dysentery. As he had truly said, 
that bracing air ill agreed with his constitution. But he 
cherished a wilful dislike to Hampstead, and to all the 
northern suburbs of London, despite his affection for the 
family who made Hampstead a home for him, and the happy 
hours he had spent there. He, perhaps from early associa- 
tions, could only tolerate the southern suburbs. They who 
are accustomed to the varied loveliness of Surrey, Sussex, and 
Kent, with their delightful mixture of arable, pasture, wood- 
land, waste, and down, one shading off into the other, cannot 
but find the unvaried pastures and gentle hills of Middlesex 
and Hertfordshire wearisomely monotonous in their pre- 
vailing heavy tints and ever-recurring bounding lines ; mono- 
tonous and unexhilarating, however agreeable they may be to 
the escaped Londoner. Mrs. Collins, of the Farm, always 
remembered Blake as 'that most delightful gentleman 1 * His 
amiable qualities and ordinarily gentle manner left a lasting 
impression on the most humble. During this visit he 
was at work upon the Dante, A clump of trees on the 
skirts of the heath is still known to old friends as the 
' Dante wood.' 

At the close of this year died another associate in the 
circle of the gifted, with whom Mr. and Mrs. Blake had still, 
in Fountain Court, been in the habit of exchanging visits as 



JET. 67— 7a] DECLINING HEALTH : DESIGNS TO DAXTE. 397 

of old : John Fbxifnn. vbose ahrays ib^ile finme had, f<H' 

some time, been TisSily afieded fcr die vorse. After a 

few days' fllness 60m an inflammatory cold which gave his 

friends little wamii^ of danger, he passed peacefully away, 

on the 7th December, 1826, in his sc\e ii ty - second yeair: 

somewhat more than six yeais after the deadi of his devoted 

helpmate 'Nancy,' who had been his companion on eqoal 

terms ; a woman of real gifts and acquirements, of classic 

accomplishments and sympathies like himself Xot till this 

biography was almost compietedp in January, i860, did the 

last member of Flaxman's refined, happy household, — Mrs. 

Flaxman's sister, Maria Denman, — fellow her beloved friends 

to the tomb. She, also, was a cultivated lady, of much energy 

and devotion of diaracter, wordiippii^ Flaxman's memory 

with a asterly enthuaasm to die lasL She had lived to 

fulfil one cherished object, — die housing a fine selection of 

Flaxman*s original models in the safe kcepiDg of London 

University College ; to whidi institution she had presented 

them. My own obligations to her appear in more than one 

page of this volume. As a giii she had seen and reverenced 

Blake so long ago as when he was livii^ in Hercules 

Buildings. 

Under the date of December occurs menticm, by Mr. 
Crabb Robinson, of another call on Blake : — 

' It wasy I bdieve, on the 7th of December (1826) that I saw 
' him. I had just heard of the death of Flaxman, a man whom he 
' admired, and was curioas how he would receive the intelligence. 

* He bad been ill durii^ the sunmier, and he said with a smile, 
' *' I thought I should have gone firsL" He then added, ** I cannot 
' think of death as m^e than the going out of one room into 
' another." He relapsed into his ordinary train of think'mg. . . . 
' This day he said, " Men are bom with an angel and a devil." 
' This he himself interpreted as soul and body. ... He spoke of 

* the Old Testament as if it were the evil element — ** Christ took 

* much after His mother.^ ... He digressed into a condemnation 
' of those who sit in judgment on others : '' I have never known a 
' very bad man who had not something very good about him.'' . . . 



398 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1814— iSs7- 

* I have no account of any other call ; but this is probably an 

* omission. I took Gotzenberger to see him, and he met the 
' Masqueriers in my chambers. Masquerier was not the man to 

* meet him. He could not humour B., nor understand the peculiar 
' sense in which R was to be received.' 

One kind scheme of Mr. Linnell's was the proposal that 
Blake should live in bis town*house in Cirencester Place, now 
only used professionally. Blake and bis wife were to take 
charge of the house and live rent free. To which proposal the 
following letter (Feb. 1827) refers : — 

Dear Sir, — 

I thank you for the five pounds received to-day. Am 
getting better every morning ; but slowly, as I am still feeble and 
tottering ; though all the symptoms of my complaint seem almost 
gone. The fine weather is very beneficial and comfortable to me. 
I go on, as I think, improving my engravings of Dante more and 
more ; and shall soon get proofs of these four which I have ; and 
beg the fiivour of you to send me the two plates of Dante whidi 
you have, that I may finish them sufiidently to make show of 
colour and strength. 

I have thought and thought of the removal I cannot get my 
mind out of a state of terrible fear at such a step. The more I 
think, the more I feel terror at what I wished at first, and thought 
a thing of benefit and good hope. You will attribute it to its 
right cause — intellectual peculiarity that must be myself alone 
shut up in m3rself, or reduced to nothing. I could tell you of 
visions and dreams upon the subject. I have asked and entreated 
Divine help; but fear continues upon me, and I must relinquish 
the step that I had wished to take, and still wish, but in vain. 

Your success in your profession is, above all things to me, most 
gratifying. May it go on to the perfection you wish, and more. 
So wishes also 

Yours sincerely, 

William Blake. 

Our next letter is dated 15th March, 1827 : — 

Dear Sir, — 

This is to thank you for two pounds, now by me received 
on account I have received a letter firom Mr. Cumberland, in 



XT. 67—70.] DECUNING HEALTH : DESIGNS TO DANTE. 399 

which he says he will take one copy of 3^06 for himsdf, but cannot, 
as yet, find & customer for one ; but hopes to do somewhat by 
persevenmce in his endeavours. He tells me that it is too much 
finished, or overlaboured, for his Bristol friends, as they think. 
I saw Mr. Tatham, senior, yesterday. He sat with me above one 
hour, and looked over the Dante. He expressed himself very 
much pleased with the designs as well as the engravings, and 
hopes soon to get proofs of what I am doing. 
I am, dear Sir, 

Yours sincerely, 

WiLUAM Blake. 



This Mr. Cumberland, of Bristol, was one of the few buyers 
from Blake during these years. For him the artist now 
executed a slight, but interesting commission — an artistic 
card-plate ; no infrequent thing in former days. Reynolds 
had such an one, and Hogarth also. The whole conception 
appears to be symbolic of life. Two boys playing fate with 
the distafT; last the angel with sickle to reap the harvest of 
God ; and other figures harder to interpret. 




The inscription below is, W. Blakt inv. & sc. at. yo. 1837. 
The Mr. Tatham, senior, was the architect I have already 
mentioned as father of a young sculptor then among Blake's 
most enthusiastic followers. 



400 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. (1824— 1827. 

. The little bundle of letters to Mr. Linnell — ^too soon, alas! 
to be exhausted — will best continue to tell the story of 
Blake's fluctuating health, his sang^uine hopes of recovery, 
and zealous devotion to his beloved task of finishing and 
engraving the Designs from Dante — task never to be 
completed by his faltering hands. 

25M AprU^ 1827. 

Dear Sir, — 

I am going on better every day, as I think, both in 
health and in work. I thank you for the ten pounds which I 
received from you this day, which shall be put to the best use; 
as also for the prospect of Mr. Ottley's advantageous acquaintance. 
I go on without daring to count on futurity, which I cannot do 
without doubt and fear that ruin activity, and are the greatest hurt 
to an artist such as I am. As to Ugolino^ &c., I never supposed 
that I should sell them. My wife alone is answerable for their 
having existed in any finished state. I am too much attached to 
Dante to think much of anything else. I have proved the six 
plates, and reduced the fighting devils ready for the copper. I 
count myself sufficiently paid if I live as I now do, and only fear 
that I may be unlucky to my friends, and especially that I may 
be so to you. 

I am, sincerely yours, 

William Blake. 

The Mr. Ottley, whose * advantageous acquaintance ' as a 
likely buyer, or recommender of buyers, is here anticipated, 
must have been the celebrated connoisseur of that day, author 
of an elaborate History of Engraving, somewhile Keeper, — 
and a very slovenly one, — of the British Museum Prints ; a 
crony of Sir George Beaumont's. The reader of Constable's 
Life may remember how ill that original artist took Ottley's 
meddlesome condescension. The conventional, old-world 
connoisseur little had it in his trivial mind to apprehend the 
significance of Blake's works. 

. Mr. Linnell still continued indefatigable in endeavours to 
obtain buyers for his friend's works, and recommended him 
to all he thought likely purchasers : Chantrey, who (as we 
sa'd) declined the Paradise Regained^ but took a highly 



iET. 67-7a] DECLINING HEALTH : DESIGNS TO DANTE. 4OI 

finished copy of the Son^s cf Innocetice and ExperiencCy at 
20/.; Lord l^^mont. Sir Thomas Lawrence, Mr. Tatham, 
and others. They considered it almost giving the money, 
even when they chose copies of the obviously beautiful Songs. 
Some of the last drawings executed or, at least, finished by 
Blake, were two commissioned by Sir Thomas Lawrence, — 
* that admirable judge of art,* as he was then considered, and 
in a certain fastidious way, was ; certainly the enthusiastic 
accumulator of a princely and matchless collection of draw- 
ings by the old masters. Sir Thomas gave fifteen guineas 
apiece for these designs of Blake's. One was The Wise and 
Foolish VirginSy the other The Dream of Queen Katherine ; 
both repetitions, though not literal ones, of careful drawings 
made for Mr. Butts. The Dream of Queen KatJurine is 
among Blake*s most highly finished and elaborate water-colour 
drawings, and one of his most beautiful and imaginative. 

During these last years, Blake lavished many finishing 
touches on his large fresco of the Last Judgment, of which 
subject we had to mention, twenty years back, two water- 
colour drawings — one for Blair's Grave^ and the other for the 
Countess of Egremont. The fresco was a very different and 
much fuller composition than either, containing some thousand 
figures. It was an especial favourite with the artist and, 
according to Smith, would have been exhibited at the 
Academy had Blake lived another year. Nobody could be 
found to give twenty-five guineas for it then. I have been 
unable to discover in whose possession this singularly interest- 
ing and important work now is, and only know it from 
hearsay. Smith had seen the picture, and hands down 
a word or two on its executive peculiarities. * The lights of 
'this extraordinary performance,' writes he, 'have the ap- 
' pearance of silver and gold ; but, upon Mrs. Blake assuring 
' me that there was no silver used, I found, upon a closer 
' examination, that a blue wash had been passed over those 
' parts of the gilding which receded ; and the lights of the 
' forward objects, which were also of gold, were heightercd 

VOL. I. D D 



402 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1824-1817. 

' with a warm colour, to give the appearance of two metals.' 
Blake, on looking up one day at this fresco, which hung in his 
front room, candidly exclaimed, as one who was present tells 
me, 'I spoiled that — made it darker; it was much finer, 
* but a Frenchwoman here (a fellow-lodger) didn't like it* 
111 advised, indeed, to alter colour at a fellow-lodger and 
Frenchwoman's suggestion ! Blake's alterations were seldom 
improvements. 



CHAJTEiC XXXVJj 

LAST DATE, ihr; ' tn ^. 

The last klter Mr. UnneE rtXKhv^ frvsi: Klitk*: datct nearly 
three months after that viuci cicwd tiit yr^M'j\xt ompt'rr : — 

Dear Sis, 

I tbaiik Ton for tiie itx ;#yuiiO{ >'^t; ait t»'> r in^ at; tv t^^-n^ 
me at this time. My lonmer to Hamysitia^'i ox- '"tjuj^liiy l^ouKht on 
I a relapse vhidb has lafite^ tlH xiov. J find J iiio ii*j* v> w*;!l at^ I 
thought; I must not go on k a voutiifuJ t,*^yl*:. J^owfvi-r, / jirn 
upon the mecding hsiKi to-oar, aiid J'lo;^ v^^j to J'>'>k itt i <Ji*1 ; 
for I have been jeBow, accompani*:*f ux aJJ !»»•; oid hyfniA^/tua, 

I astt, 4»SLr >>tf, 

Vourt urkiA^«\y, 

He was not to mend ; though b-ti]], vy Ion;/ j^j^ W<raHi l^^t^r^J, 
to keep on at his life-long laV/urt of lov^, 'J hjjj k-tt/rr wan 
written but six weeks before his death- 

In the previous letter of April 25th, hW/:t h;id «aid of 
himself, ' I am too much attached to Dante t/> think much of 
'anything else.' In the course of hh lingering illness, he was 
frequently bolstered up in his bed that he might go on with 
these drawings. The younger Tatham had commissioned a 
coloured impression of that grand ooncej/tion in the Europe^ 
the Ancient of Days, already noticed as a singular favourite 
with Blake and as one it was always a happiness to him to 

D D 2 



404 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1S17. 

copy. Tatham gave three guineas and a half for this sped- 
men ; a higher rate of payment than Blake was accustomed 
to. This being so, of course, Blake finished it to the utmost 
point, making it as beautiful in colour as already grand in 
design ; patiently working on it till within a few days of his 
death. After he *had frequently touched upon it,' says 
Tatham, as reported by Smith, * and had frequently held it 
'at a distance, he threw it from him, and with an air of 
* exulting triumph exclaimed, " There ! that will do ! I cannot 
' mend it." ' 

As he said these words, his glance fell on his loving Kate, 
no longer young or beautiful, but who had lived with him in 
these and like humble rooms, in hourly companionship, ever 
ready helpfulness, and reverent sympathy, for now forty-five 
years. August, forty-five years ago (back into a past century), 
they had wedded at Battersea Church, on the other side the 
river. August, 1827, he lies, in failing strength, in the quiet 
room looking out over the river, yet but a few yards removed 
from the roaring Strand : she beside his bed, she alone. He 
has no other servant, nor nurse, and wants no other. As his 
eyes rested on the once graceful form, thought of all she had 
been to him in these years filled the poet-artist's mind. ' Stay ! ' 
he cried, * keep as you are ! yoji have been ever an angel to 

* me : I will draw you !' And a portrait was struck off by a 
hand which approaching death — few days distant now — had 
not weakened nor benumbed. This drawing has been de- 
scribed to me by Mr. Tatham, who once possessed it, as *a 
'phrenzied sketch of some power; highly interesting, but not 

* like.' 

Blake still went on designing as of old. One of the very 
last shillings spent was in sending out for a pencil. For his 
illness, caused, as was afterwards ascertained, by the mixing 
of the gall with the blood, was not violent, but a gradual and 
gentle failure of physical powers, which no wise affected the 
mind. The speedy end was not foreseen by his friends. 

The final leave-taking came he had so often seen in vision; 



iBT. 69— 7a] LAST DAYS. 405 

SO often, and with such child-like, simple faith, sung and 
designed. With the very same intense, high feeling he had 
depicted the Death of tJu Righteous Man, he enacted it — 
serenely, joyously. For life and design and song were with 
him all pitched in one key, different expressions of one 
reality. No dissonances there ! It happened on a Sunday 
the 1 2th of August, 1827, nearly three months before com- 
pletion of his seventieth year. ' On the day of his death,' 
writes Smith, who had his account from the widow, * he com- 
' posed and uttered songs to his Maker, so sweetly to the ear 
' of his Catherine that, when she stood to hear him, he, looking 
' upon her most affectionately, said, " My beloved I they are not 

* mifu. No ! they are not mine ! ** He told her they would 
' not be parted ; he should always be about her to take care 

* of her.' 

A little before his death, Mrs. Blake asked where he would 
be buried, and whether a dissenting minister or a clergyman 
of the Church of England should read the service. To which 
he answered, that ' as far as his own feelings were concerned, 

* she might bury him where she pleased.' But that as * father, 
' mother, aunt, and brother were buried in Bunhill Row, 
' perhaps it would be better to lie there. As to service, he 

* should wish for that of the Church of England.' 

In that plain, back room, so dear to the memory of his 
friends, and to them beautiful from association with him — 
with his serene, cheerful converse, his high personal influence, 
so spiritual and rare — ^he lay chaunting Songs to Melodies, 
both the inspiration of the moment, but no longer, as of old, 
to be noted down. To the pious Songs followed, about six 
in the summer evening, a calm and painless withdrawal of 
breath ; the exact moment almost unperceived by his wife 
who sat by his side. A humble female neighbour, her only 
other companion, said afterwards : * I have been at the death, 
' not of a man, but of a blessed angel. ' 

A letter, written a few days later, to a mutual friend by a 
now distinguished painter, one of the most fervent in that 



4o6 



LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 



[1827. 



enthusiastic little band I have so often mentioned, expresses 
their feelings better than words less fresh or authentic can. 

Wednesday Evening. 

My dear Friend, 

I>est you should not have heard of the death of Mr. Blake, 
I have written this to inform you. He died on Sunday night, at six 
o'clock, in a most glorious manner. He said he was going to that 
country he had all his life wished to see, and expressed himself 
happy, hoping for salvation through Jesus Christ Just before he 
died his countenance became fair, his eyes brightened, and he burst 
out into singing of the things he saw in heaven. In truth, he died 
like a saint, as a person who was standing by him observed. He is 
to be buried on Friday, at twelve in the morning. Should you like 
to go to the funeral ? If you should, there will be room in the 
coach. 

Yours affectionately. 




CHAPTER XXXVIIL 

POSTHUMOUS. 1827— jr. 

At noon on the following Friday, August 1 7th, the chosen 
knot <rf friends, — Ridunond, Cdvcrt, Tatham, and others, — 
attended the body of the beloved man to the grave,— saw 
it laid in Bunhill Fields burying-ground, Finsbury : Tatham, 
thoi^h ill, travelling ninety miles to do so. Bunhill Fields is 
known to us all as the burial-place of Bunyan and De Foe, 
among other illustrioas Nonconformists. Thither, seven years 
later, was brought Blake's old rival, Stothard, to be laid with 
his kin : a stone memorial marks his grave. 

Among the-' five thousand head-stones' in Bunhill Fields, 
exists none to William Blake ; nothing to indicate the spot 
where he was buried. Smith, with the best intentions (and 
Mr. Fairfaolt in the Art Journal for August, 1858, follows 
him), would identify the grave as one ' numbered 80, at the 
• distance of about twenty-five feet from the north wall.' Un- 
fortunately, that particular portion of the burying-ground was 
not added until 1836; in 1827 it was occupied by houses, 
then part of Bunhill Row. On reference to the register, now 
kept at Somerset House, I find the grave to be numbered ' ^^, 
•east and west; 32 north and south.' This, helped by the ex- 
sexton, we discover vaguely to be a sfjot somewhere about 
the middle of that division of the ground lying to the right 
as you enter. There is ro identifying it furth> r. As it was 



4IO LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. [1827— iSjL 

which Mrs. Blake, with due pride as well as gratitude, replied 
by forwarding him a copy of the So^gs of Immoamct and 
Experience^ which she described as, in her estimation, 
especially precious from having been * Blake's own.' It is 
a very late example, the water-mark of the paper bearing 
date 1825 ; and certainly, as to harmony of colour and 
delicacy of execution, is not, throughout, equal to some of 
the early copies. But, as the leaves were evidentiy numbered 
by Blake himself, the figures being in the same colour as the 
engraved writing, it has been here followed, — thanks to the 
courtesy of its present owner, the Rev. Charles Foster, — in 
regard to the order of the Songs as reprinted in VoL II. 

A note to Mr. Swinburne's Critical Essay (pp. 81-83}, 
contains the following interesting reminiscence of Mrs. Blake 
from the lips of Mr. Seymour Kirkup, who, as the reader will 
remember, was one of the few visitors to Blake's Exhibition 
in 1809. ' After Blake's death, a gift of ;£'ioo was sent to 
' his widow by the Princess Sophia. Mrs. Blake sent back 

* the money with all due thanks, not liking to take or keep 
' what, as it seemed to her, she could dispense with, while 

* many, to whom no chance or choice was given, might have 
' been kept alive by the gift. One complaint only she was 
' ever known to make during her husband's life, and that 
'gently, — "Mr. Blake was so little with her, though in the 

* body they were never separated ; for he was incessantly 

* away in Paradise," — which would not seem to have been 

* far off.' 

Mr. Gary, the translator of Dante, also purchased a drawing 
— Ohcron and Titania : and a gentleman in the far north, 
Mr. James F*crguson, an artist who writes from Tynemouth, 
took copies of three or four of the Engraved Books. Neither 
was Mrs. Blake wanting in efforts to help herself, so far as it 
lay within her own power to do so. She was an excellent 
saleswoman, and never committed the mistake of showinij 
too many things at one time. Aided by Mr. Tatham, she also 
filled in, within Hlakc's lines, the colour of the Engraved 



i827— iSji.l POSTHUMOUS. 4II 

Books; and even finished some of the drawings — rather 
against Mr. Linnell's judgment Of her husband she would 
always speak with trembling voice and tearful eyes as ' that 
•wonderful man/ whose spirit, she said, was still with her, 
as in death he had promised. Him she worshipped till the 
end. The manner of her own departure, which occurred 
Somewhat suddenly, was characteristic, and in harmony with 
Ae tenor of her life. WTien told by the doctor that the 
severe attack of inflammation of the boweb which had seized 
her and which, always self-negh'gent, she had suffered to run 
to a height before calling in medical aid, would terminate in 
mortification, she sent for her friends, Mr. and Mrs. Tatham, 
and, with much composure, gave minute directions for the 
performance of the last sad details ; requesting, among other 
things, that no one but themselves should see her after death, 
and that a bushel of slaked lime should be put in the coffin, 
to secure her from the dissecting knife. She then took leave 
of Miss Blake, and passed the remaining time — about five 
hours — calmly and cheerfully ; repeating texts of Scripture, 
'and calling continually to her William, as if he were only 

* in the next room, to say that she was coming to Inni, and 

* would not be long now/ This continued nearly till the end. 
She died in Mrs. Tatham's arms, at four o'clock in the 
morning, on or about the i8th of October, 1831, at the age 
of sixty-nine ; and nas buried beside her liusband in liunhill 
Fields. The remaining stock of his works, ntill cijn.hider- 
able, she bequeathed to .Mr. Tatham, who iidininihtercd 
her few effects — effects, in an artistic hitn^i^ mo prtcioun. 
They have since b^ren widely d.'>[>f:rH#:/| ; hhiiw drf?tniy»<| 

Blake left no surviving blof^J relative, exa -pi hin hinti-r, 
concerning whom only the .Ointieit partieulaifi are- now to 
be gleaned. She had ha/j in her youth, it j?, naiij, noinr 
pretensions to beauty, and inren in a^^e retaineil ihe tirtcin 
of it; her eyes, in p^irticular, beinjj noliiealily hne. Mir 
was deddedly a /a//y in demeanour, thon^di ^nm< what nhy 
and proud ; with prccivi oidrr.aidi-.h wayi. jnlhir: m.iy lir 



412 



LIFE OF WILUAM BLAKE. 



[1817—1831. 



added that she survived her brother many years, and sank 
latterly, it is to be feared, into extreme indigence ; at which 
point we lose sight of her altogether. Where or when she 
died, I have been unable to discover. Miss Blake has 
crossed our path but once casually during the course of 
this narrative, — during the Felpham days, when she made 
one in her brother's household. 




CHAPTER XXXIX. 

SUPPLEMENTARY. 

Amid unavoidable regrets that all it seems'poHiiible to ^\<^\\ 
regarding a life of great gifts and independent Almii» which 
has passed away beneath the very eyes of many now llvinij, 
is already exhausted, it remains only to add a few rmthrr 
notes of critical or personal detail ; a few pagcH of Huunnai) t 
and of matters accessory to the main subject. 

To begin with the first of these : — 

The reader has already seen that Blake applied the tonn 
fresco to his own pictures in a somewhat unuMual Honiit). At* 
cording to the literal meaning of the word, he Ciinnot he mhuI 
to have ever painted a /r^j^ in his life. To Mr. l.lnnell I 
am indebted for the following explanation of iho nmttui itn 
explanation which also throws light or) tht^ cuuae iit iIid 
lamentable decay into which some of Hliikci'ti ' frettitm ' \\\\\\ 
Umperas have already fallen. 'He evidently (ouncUul hu 

* claim to the mm^ fresco on the material hv. uj^iuI, whJi Ii wan 
' water-colour on a plaster ground (literally (^liitJ and whilin^) , 
' but he always called it either fre«ci>, gcsii**;, oi phitttci . Ami lui 

* certainly laid this ground on too much liKo planlui on «t 
*walL When so laid on to canva» or liiitu, it wmh hum: lo 
'crack, and, in some caj>e«, for want of auc mul iiiMtiiUtM) 
' from damp, would go to ruin. Some of \\\n putiMiA Ml \\\\n 
' rr.aterial on board liavc b<;M5 j^Mixivtd in ^dmiI »Miii|lliiiii, 



414 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

* and so have a few even on cloth. They come nearer to 

* tempera in process than to anything else, inasmuch as white 
'was laid on and mixed with the colburs which were tempered 

* with common carpenter's glue.' NoUekens Smith also tells 
us that Blake 'would, in the course of painting a picture, 
' pass a very thin transparent wash of glue-water over the 

* whole of the parts he had worked upon, and then proceed 
' with his finishing.' Those who may be curious to have a 
minute description of how to manipulate these materials may 
find one in an Italian treatise entitled Di Cennino Cenniniy 
Trattato della Pittura messo in luce la prima volta con anna- 
tazioni dcd Cavcdiere Giuseppe Tambronu Roma; Coi Torchj 
di Paolo Sabriucci, 1822; of which chap. xix. headed CoUa 
di Spichi^ is specially devoted to the subject. *I believe,' 
writes Mr. Linnell, ' that the first copy of Cennino Cennini's 
' book seen in England was the one I obtained from Italy, 

* and gave to Blake, who soon made it out, and was gratified 
' to find that he had been using the same materials and 
' methods in painting as Cennini describes, particularly the 
' carpenter's glue.' 

Blake was a severe designer, — says another friend, on the 
same topic, — and the richness of oils did not please him, nor 
comport with his style ; nay, so vehement an antagonist was 
he to oils (see Descriptive Catalogue)^ that he used to assert 
that all really great works were in water-colour ; and, regard- 
ing the plaster ground and the absence of an oily vehicle as 
the important and distinguishing characteristic of fresco, and 
the peculiarity from which it takes its name, — that of being 
executed on a wet surface, — as a comparatively trivial one he, 
naturally enough, took pleasure in adopting that designation 
for his own pictures. 

A few fragmentary notes concerning Blake's principles or 
practice, written down as they were gathered, have not yet 
been included here. Though slight they are not without 
interest, and it will be better not to omit them. 

He worked at literature and art at the same time, keeping 



SUPPLEMENTARY. 4I> 

the manuscript beside him and adding to it, at intcrwiK whiV 
the graver continued its task almost without intcnnis.<uv\ 
He despised etching needles, and worked wholly with the 
jraver in latter years. 

He used to say 'Truth is always in the cxtaMnc*,-k<v\^ 
' them.' I suppose he meant the same thing in s%iyinj;f, * U' ^ 
' fool would persist in his folly he would become wisc»* 

He hated the bold, abrupt, off-hand style of dra\vii\|j. ' IV 
'you work in fear and trembling .? ' he asked a studout whx^ 
came to him for advice. ' Indeed I do, sir.* * Then >\Hi'li 
* do/ was the rejoinder. All the grand efforts ol dc^iii^iv h\^ 
thought, depended on niceties not to be got at vmwi\ ^^^*t 
put in the action, then with further .strokoji fill up^ S\\ h>^ 
believed, worked the great masters. 

He felt his way in drawing, notwithstiuuliny his low wi .-^ 
'bold determinate outline/ and did not ^ct this ^^\ ouwv 
Copyists and plagiarists do that, but not ori^inul cuttMs, ^^ \\ 
is common to suppose : they find a difficulty in dtvi lopi^^^; 
the first idea. Blake drew a rough, dotic'tt linr with |^m^)^ 
then with ink; then colour, filling in cautlt)unl,\, \(^ivlU)l\ 
At the same time he attached very great InipoilftiKo \\\ ' \\\\\ 
'lines/ and was wont to affirm ;- * iMfHt thtm^htn cuo l^'M \\\ 
'art, second* thoughts in other mattefM.' 

He held that nature should be Iriirnrd by \\%^(\\\, i\\\\\ w 
membered by the painter, as the port irnirnilnin Uh^Uf^^v^ 
'To learn the language of art, copy for rvv\, in \\\\ \\\W' msi^l 
he. But he never painted hin pictuirw lioiii niuilrU, * Mo\U'U 
'are difficult — enslave onc'-<;ffaa' from uiict'ti niiuil d \u»uv'\^ 
' tion or reminiscence which WJiM beltn.' Iliiti Inni fi^UMM m 
open to much more diiK:uMhion (hiih cmii Im nivrh 11 Us-w 
From Fuseli, that oftcn-rciK;rtcd <k«luirttlnii iil lil«, ' Ni^uu 
'puts me out,' seem» but anotVr i'M|im t««ilMn nl \\\\\ u.uu^ 
wilful arrogance and want of ilrliirtln tihiiili!ii, nlulhr* mI 
character or style, which wr find hi llial |Mliilt i » \\\^\\*^ 
Nevertheless a scntenof; nh^/uld Imm* bn n\uk\iA Im m.»\ \\\M 
England wouki do wdJ to i;rc«Krv« cmimm- M'liMhHil mI I'mmv^Iii* 



41 6 LIFE or WILLIAM BLAKE. 

work before it is irremediably obliterated. His oil pictures 
arc, for the most part, monstrously overloaded in bulk as in 
style, and not less overloaded in mere slimy pigment But 
his sketches in water-wash and pencil or pen and ink, should 
yet be formed, ere too late, into a precious national collec- 
tion, including as they do, many specimens, than which not 
the greatest Italian masters could show greater proo& of 
mastery. 

Blake's natural tendencies were, in many respects, far 
different from Fuseli's, and it is deeply to be regretted that 
an antagonism, which became more and more personal as 
well as artistic, to the petty practice of the art of his day,— 
joined no doubt to inevitable sympathy with this very Fusdi, 
fighting in great measure the same battle with himself for 
the high against the low, — should have led to Blake's adopt- 
ing and unreservedly following the dogma above given as 
regards the living model. Poverty, and consequent difficulty 
of models at command, must have had something to do with 
it too. The truth on this point is, that no imaginative artist/ 
can fully express his own tone of mind without sometimes in 
his life working untrammelled by present reference to nature ; 
and, indeed, that the first conception of every serious work 
must be ^^TOUght into something like complete form, as a pre- 
paratory design, without such did, before having recourse to 
it in the carrying out of the work. But it is equally or still 
more imperative that immediate study of nature should per- 
vade the whole completed work. Tenderness, the constant 
unison of wonder and familiarity so mysteriously allied in 
nature, the sense of fulness and abundance such as we feel in 
a field, not because we pry into it all, but because it is all 
there : these arc the inestimable prizes to be secured only by 
such study in the painter's every picture. And all this Blake, 
as thoroughly as any painter, was gifted to have attained, 
as we may see especially in his works of that smallest size 
where memory and genius may really almost stand in lieu of 
immediate consultation of nature. But the larger his works 



SUPPLEMENTARY. 417 

are, the further he departs from this lovely impression of 
natural truth ; and when we read the above maxim, wc know 
why. However, the principle was not one about which he 
had no misgiving, for very fluctuating if not quite conflicting 
opinions on this point might be quoted from his writings. 

No special consideration has yet been entered on here of 
Blake*s claim as a colourist, but it is desirable that this 
should be done now in winding up the subject, both because 
his place in this respect among painters is very peculiar, and 
also on account of the many misleading things he wrote 
regarding colour, carried away at the moment, after his fiery 
fashion, by the predominance he wished to give to other 
qualities in some argument in hand. Another reason why 
his characteristics, in this respect, need to be dwelt u[)on is, 
that certainly his most original and prismatic system of 
colour, — in which tints laid on side by side, each in its utmost 
force, are made by masterly treatment to produce a startling 
and novel eflfect of truth, — must be viewed as being, more 
decidedly than the system of any other painter, the forerunner 
of a style of execution now characterising a wliole n<:vv 
section of the English School, and making itself admitted an 
actually invoking some positive additions to the resources of 
the art. Some of the out-d'x^r pictures of this c:lai»s, tsiudied 
as they are with a closeness tA imitation |xrrhaps nnprcrce- 
dented, have nevertheless no slight e^v;ntial affinity to lilake's 
way of representing natural scenes, though the hinallncbs of 
scale in these latter, and the spiritual quality whiiii alwuyH 
mingles with their truth to nature, may n mU^r tlu: |iiiralli:l 
less apparent than it othcrwivr would li<r. In HIalv* 'h loloui- 
ing of landscape, a subtle and exqui^-Jte italily (oiiith quid: 
as strong an elexzMxt as d<>r:i> i^ieal {f/utuU^ui , wlutlMi wu 
And him dealixig with the j.ai>t//ral tfv/ciiiirt^ti o( ilriiiKin^ 
cattle at a strcan:, their hi/les and IUj-^jh all t/loiihi d \ty tu\h 
set with magic rair^bou- hu*:»; or r< v« jIjii^ in uj». in a tt^rJi ul 
creative genius, b^Ant puJtMJ tky and l/« .<t« it ti .1 ^ilj nl ptii 
tentous expectation. <mk uf^f;*'] nj/ :&i;;m ni hi.*i hut: IiimIIu.i 

VOL I. |. |. 



41 8 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

hood with all the great colourists is the lovingly wrought and 
realistic flesh-painting which is constantly to be met with in 
the midst of his most extraordinary effects. For pure 
realism, too, though secured in a few touches as only great- 
ness can, let us turn to the dingy London street, all snow- 
clad and smoke-spotted, through which the little black 
chimney-sweeper wends his way in the Songs of Experiena. 
Certainly an unaccountable perversity in colour may now and 
then be apparent, as where, in the same series, the tiger is 
painted in fantastic streaks of red, green, blue, and yellow, 
while a tree stem at his side tantalizingly supplies the tint 
which one might venture to think his due, and is perfect 
tiger-colour ! I am sure, however, that such vagaries, curious 
enough no doubt, are not common with Blake, as the above 
is the only striking instance I can recall in his published 
work. But, perhaps, a few occasional bewilderments may be 
allowed to a system of colour which is often suddenly called 
upon to help in embodying such conceptions as painter never 
before dreartied of: some old skeleton folded together in 
the dark bowels of earth or rock, discoloured with metallic 
stain and vegetable mould ; some symbolic human birth of 
crowned flowers at dawn, amid rosy light and the joyful 
opening of all things. Even a presentment of the most 
abstract truths of natural science is not only attempted by 
this new painter, but actually effected by legitimate pictorial, 
ways ; and we are somehow shown, in figurative yet not 
wholly unreal shapes and hues, the mingling of organic 
substances, the gradual development and perpetual transfusion 
of life. 

The reader who wishes to study Blake as a colourist has 
a means of doing so, thorough in kind though limited in 
extent, by going to the Print Room at the British Museum, 
which is accessible to any one who takes the proper course 
to gain admission, and there examining certaiin of Blake's 
hand-coloured prints, bound in volumes. All those in the 
collection are not equally valuable, since the various copies 



SUPPLEMENTARY. 419 

of Blake s own colouring differ extremely in finish and rich- 
ness, as has been already noted here. The Museum copy 
of the Songs of Innocence and Experience is rather a poor 
one, though it will serve to judge of the book ; and some 
others of his works are there represented by copies which, I 
feel convinced, are not coloured by Blake*s hand at all, but 
got up more or less in his manner, and brought into the 
market after his death. But two volumes here — the Song 
of Los^ and especially the smaller of the two coUections of 
odd plates from his different works, which is labelled Desigfis 
by IV. BlaJke, and numbered, inside the fly-leaf, 5240— afford 
specimens of his colouring, perhaps equal to any that could 
be seen. 

The tinting in the Song of Los is not, throughout, of one 
order of value ; but no finer example of Blake's power in 
rendering poetic effects of landscape could be found, than 
that almost miraculous expression of the glow and freedom 
of air in closing sunset, in a plate where a youth and maiden, 
lightly embraced, are racing along a saddened low-lit hill, 
against an open sky of blazing and changing wonder. But 
in the volume of collected designs I have specified, almost 
every plate (or more properly water-colour drawing, as the 
printed groundwork in such specimens is completely over- 
laid) shows Blake's colour to advantage, and some in its very 
fullest force. See, for instance, in plate 8, the deep, unfathom- 
able, green sea churning a broken foam as white as milk 
against that sky which is all blue and gold and blood-veined 
heart of fire ; while from sea to sky one locked and motion- 
less face gazes, as it might seem, for ever. Or, in plate 9, 
the fair tongues and threads of liquid flame deepening to the 
redness of blood, lapping round the flesh-tints of a human 
figure which bathes and swims in the furnace. Or plate I2» 
which, like the other two, really embodies some of the wild / 
ideas in Urizen, but might seem to be Aurora guiding the 
new-bom day, as a child, through a soft-complcxioned sky 
of fleeting rose and tingling grey, such as only dawn and 

E K 2 



420 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

dreams can show us. Or, for pure delightfulness, intricate=r 
colour, and a kind of Shakespearian sympathy with al 
forms of life and growth, as in the Midsummer Nighi 
Dream^ let the g^zer, having this precious book once in hi: 
hands, linger long over plates lo, i6, 22, and 23. If the 
be for him, he will be joyful more and more the longer h 
looks, and will gain back in that time some things as he 
knew them, not encumbered behind the days of his life 
things too delicate for memory or years since forgotten 
the momentary sense of spring in winter-sunshine, the Ion 
sunsets long ago, and falling fires on many distant hills. 

•The inequality in value, to which I have alluded, between 
various copies of the same design as coloured by Blake, may 
be tested by comparing the book containing the plates 
alluded to above, with the copies of Urizen and the Book of 
T/uly also in the Print Room, some of whose contents are 
the same as in this collected volume. The immense differ- 
ence dependent on greater finish in the book I have described, 
and indeed sometimes involving the introduction of entirely 
new features into the design, will thus be at once apparent. 
In these highly-wrought specimens, the colour has a half 
floating and half granulated character which is most curious 
and puzzling, seeming dependent on the use of some peculiar 
means, either in vehicle, or by some kind of pressure or 
stamping which had the result of blending the transparent 
and body tints in a manner not easily described. The 
actual printing from the plate bearing the design was, as I 
have said and feel convinced, confined to the first impression 
in monochrome. But this perplexing quality of execution 
reaches its climax in some of Blake's * oil-colour printed ' 
and hand-finished designs, such as several large ones now in 
the possession of Captain Butts, the grandson of Blake's 
friend and patron. One of these, the Newton, consists in a 
great part of a rock covered with fossil substance or lichen 
of some kind, the treatment of which is as endlessly varied 
and intricate as a photograph from a piece of seaweed 



ST J 'J1 .rVFVTAl.T 42 1 

^'"tmU be It cssmDC -pz^siriy br aZ handwort, and yet 
"*- can oooccarc no TTtfarTir.'iiCia] prDCSSL. sbcwt of photography, 
"^^liidi is ica3y capr;h> of explaining it. It is no less 
Ulan a compjcss my^sny. ircll Trortby of an)' amount of 
inquiry, if a c3ae canld ocjt be fc«rad from which to com- 
Oience. In nearly all Kakes works of this solidly painted 
Icind, it is greatiy to be laraeaited that the harmony of tints 
is cootinoally impaired br ihe blackening of the bad white 
pigment, and perhaps red lead also, which has been used, 
- — ^an injuiy which must probably go still further in course 
of time. 

Of the process by which the designs last alluded to were 
produced, the following explanation has been furnished by 
Mr. TathanL It is interestii^, and I have no doubt correct 
as regards the groundwork, but certainly it quite falls short 
of accounting for the perplexing intricacy of such portions 
as the rock-background of the Newton. ' Blake, when he 
'wanted to make his prints in oil' (writes my informant), 
' took a common thick millboard and drew^ in some strong 

* ink or colour, his design upon it strong and thick. He 
'then painted upon that in such oil colours and in such a 
'state of fusion that they would blur well. He painted 

* roughly and quickly, so that no colour would have time to 
' dry. He then took a print of that on paper, and this im- 
*pression he coloured up in water-colours, repainting his 

* outline on the mill-board when he wanted to take another 

* print This plan he had recourse to, because he could 
' vary slightly each impression ; and each having a sort of 

* accidental look, he could branch out so as to make each 
' one different. The accidental look they had was very 

* enticing.' Objections might be raised to this account as to 
the apparent impracticability of painting in water colours over 
oil; but I do not believe it would be found so, if the oil 
colour were merely stamped,, as described, and left to. dry 
thoroughly into the paper. 

In concluding a biography which has for its subject a life 



422 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

SO prone to new paths as was that of William Blake, it may 
be well to allude, however briefly, to those succeeding British 
artists who have shown unmistakably something of his in- 
fluence in their works. Foremost among these comes a very 
great though as yet imperfectly acknowledged name, — that 
of David Scott of Edinburgh, a man whom Blake himself 
would have delighted to honour, and to whose high apprecia- 
tion of Blake the motto on the title-page of the present 
book bears witness. Another proof of this is to be found in 
a MS. note in a copy of the Grave which belonged to Scott; 
which note I shall here transcribe. I may premise that the 
apparent preference given to the Grave over Blake*s other 
works seems to me almost to argue in the writer an imperfect 
acquaintance with the Job. 

* These, of any series of designs which art has produced' 
(writes the Scottish painter), * are the most purely elevated 
< in their relation and sentiment. It would be long to discri- 
' minate the position they hold in this respect, and at the 
' same time the disregard in which they maybe held by some 
'who judge of them in a material relation ; while the great 

* beauty which they possess will at once be apparent to 

* others who can appreciate their style in its immaterial con- 
'nection. But the sum of the whole in my mind is this: 
' that these designs reach the intellectual or infinite, in an 
'abstract significance, more entirely unmixed with inferior 
' elements ahd local conventions, than any others ; that 
' they are the result of high intelligence, of thought, 

* and of a progress of art through many styles and stages 

* of different times, produced through a bright, generalizing 

* and transcendental mind. 

' The errors or defects of Blake's mere science in form, and 

* his proneness to overdo some of its best features into weak- 
' ness, are less perceptible in these than in others of his 

* works. What was a disappointment to him was a benefit 
' to the work, — that it was etched by another, who was able 

* to render it in a style thoroughly consistent, (but which 



SUPPLEMENTARY. 4^J 

' Blake has the originality of havii^ pointed oat^ in hcs series 

* from Young, though he did not jMroperly effect it,) and to 
' pass over those soiedsms which would hav^e interrupted its 

* impression, in a way that, to the apprehender of thcse^ need 

* scarcely give offence, and hide them from the d£sco\'ery 
*of others. They are etched with most appropriate and 
' consummate ability.' Dcnnd Scott^ 1^44- 

In the list of subscribers appended to Blake's Grcect we find 
the name of * Mr. Robert Scott, Edinburgh.' This was the 
engraver, father of David Scott, to whom, therefore, this book 
(published in 1808, one year after his birth) must have come as 
an early association and influence. That such was the case is 
often traceable in his works, varied as they are in their grand 
range of subject, and even treatment And it is singular 
that the clear perception of Blake's weak side, evident in the 
second paragraph of the note, did not save its writer from 
falling into defects exactly similar in that peculiar class of his 
works in which he most resembles Blake. It must be noticed, 
however, that these are chiefly among his earlier productions 
(such as the Monograms of Man, the picture of Discordy &c), 
or else among the sketches left imperfect ; while the note 
dates only five years before his untimely death at the age of 
forty-two. This is not a place where any attempt can be 
made at estimating the true position of David Scott. Such 
a task will need, and some day doubtless find, ample limit 
and opportunity. It is fortunate that an unusually full and 
excellent biographical record of him already exists in the 
Memoir from the hand of a brother no less allied to him by 
mental and artistic powers than by ties of blood ; but what is 
needed is, that his works should be collected and competently 
placed before the world. An opportunity in this direction 
was afforded by the International Exhibition of 1862; but the 
two noble works of his which were there, were so unpardon- 
ably ill-placed (and that where so much was well seen which 
was not worth the seeing), that the chance was completely 
missed. David Scott will one day be acknowledged as the 



424 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

painter most nearly fulfilling the highest requirements for 
historic art, both as a thinker and a colourist (in spite of the 
great claims in many respects of Etty and Maclise), who had 
come among us from the time of Hogarth to his own. In 
saying this, it is necessary to add distinctly (for the sake of 
objectors who have raised, or may raise, their voices), that it 
is not only, or even chiefly, on his intellectual eminence, that 
the statement is based, but also on the great qualities of 
colour and powers of solid execution displayed in his finest 
works, which are to be found among those deriving their 
subjects from history. 

Another painter, ranking far below David Scott, but still 
not to be forgotten where British poetic art is the theme — 
was Theodore von Hoist, an Englishman, though of German 
extraction ; in many of whose most characteristic works the 
influence of Blake, as well as of Fuseli, has probably been 
felt. But Hoist was far from possessing anything like the 
depth of thought or high aims which distinguished Blake. 
At the same time, his native sense of beauty and colour in 
the more ideal walks of art, was originally beyond that of 
any among his contemporaries, except Etty and Scott. He 
may be best described, perhaps, to the many who do not 
know his works, as being, in some sort, the Edgar Poe of 
painting ; but lacking, probably, even the continuity of 
closely studied work in the midst of irregularities which 
distinguished the weird American poet, and has enabled him 
to leave behind some things which cannot be soon forgotten. 
Hoist, on the contrary, it is to be feared, has hardly trans- 
mitted such complete record of his naturally great gifts as 
can secure their rescue from oblivion. It would be very 
desirable that an account of him and his works should be 
written by some one best able to do so among those still 
living who must have known him. It is a tribute due to an 
artist who, howev^er imperfect his self-expression during a 
short and fitful career, forms certainly one of the few con- 
necting links between the early and sound period of English 



SUPPLEMENTARY. • 425 

colour and method in painting, and that revival of which so 
many signs have, in late years, been apparent. At present, 
much of what he did is doubtless in danger of being lost 
altogether. Specimens from his hand existed in the late 
Northwick collection, now dispersed; and some years since 
I saw a most beautiful work by him — a female head or half 
figure — among the pictures at Stafford House. But Hoist's 
sketches and designs on paper (a legion past numbering) 
were, for the most part, more expressive of his full powers than 
his pictures, which were too often merely sketches enlarged 
without reference to nature. Of these, a very extensive col- 
lection was possessed by the late Serjeant Ralph Thomas. 
What has become of them ? Among Hoist's pictures, the best 
are nearly always those partaking of the fantastic or super- 
natural, which, however dubious a ground to take in art, was 
the true bent of his genius. A notable instance of his com- 
parative weakness in subjects of pure dignity may be found 
in what has been pronounced his best work, and was probably 
about the most ' successful ' at the time of its production ; 
that is, the Raising" of Jairuss Daughter^ which was once in 
the gallery at the Pantheon in Oxford Street. Probably the 
fullest account of Hoist is to be found in the sufficiently brief 
notice of him which appeared in the Art Journal (or Art 
Union, as then called). 

Of any affinity in spirit to Blake which might be found 
existing in the works of some living artists, it is not necessary 
to speak here ; yet allusion should be made to one still alive 
and honoured in other ways, who early in life produced a 
series of Biblical designs seldom equalled for imaginative 
impression, and perhaps more decidedly like Blake's works, 
though quite free from plagiarism, than anything else that 
could be cited. I allude to One Hundred Copper-plate En- 
gravings from original drawings by Isaac Taylor^ junior^ 
calculated to ornament all quarto and octavo editions of t/te 
Bible. London: Allan Bell & Co,, Warwick Square. 1834. 



426 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

Strange as it may appear, I believe I am right in stating that 
these were produced in youth by the late venerable author of 
the Natural History of Enthusiasm^ and many other works. 
How he came to do them, or why he did no more, I have no 
means of recording. They are very small and very unat- 
tractively engraved, sometimes by the artist and sometimes 
by others. In simplicity, dignity, and original thought, 
probably in general neglect at the time, and certainly in 
complete disregard ever since, they bear a close affinity to 
the mass of Blake's works, and may fairly be supposed to 
have been, in some measure, inspired by the study of them. 
Tlu Witch of Endor, T/ie Plague Stayed, The Death of Samson, 
and many others, are, in spirit, even well worthy of his hand, 
and from him, at least, would not have missed the admiration 
they deserve. 

Having spoken so far of Blake's influence as a painter, I 
should be glad if I could point out that the simplicity and 
purity of his style as a lyrical poet had also exercised some 
sway. But, indeed, he is so far removed from ordinary 
apprehensions in most of his poems, or more or less in all, and 
they have been so little spread abroad, that it will be im- 
possible to attribute to them any decided place among the 
impulses which have directed the extraordinary mass of 
poetry displaying power of one or another kind, which has 
been brought before us, from his day to our own. Perhaps 
some infusion of his modest and genuine beauties might add a 
charm even to the most gifted works of our present rather re- 
dundant time. One grand poem which was, till lately, on the 
same footing as his own (or even a still more obscure one) as 
regards popular recognition and which shares, though on a 
more perfect scale than he ever realized in poetry, the exalted 
and primeval, if not the subtly etherealized, qualities of his 
poetic art, may be found in Charles Wells's scriptural drama 
of Joseph and his Brethren, published in 1824 under the 
assumed name of Howard. This work affords, perhaps, the 



:7 li^^^i, * irann mrpcncu^ ^ ..«*fc'«^ •-» "^^ ^•^.•' "'^ 
das :2ilin^ nmc inreEzr^rnaesi -stni r«5»«Wiii***^ '^^ ■'* • ■^•■^ 
space jf ygin= , Iir :tie irsr ioitrJtt A ^tfciS^ - '/^ ' ^^**^ 
ft was Tinniiesed -ttar "IV'iils^ time %cn4)sO: •ifi«5^»*^^\'^ n,?*^ 
"aane. In zd"^ s^ ji^^ -«»* *^ Srrftfmm *«4fi^ vyv^v^vNw 
under die 7it *»it i -^ n 3fc Swnxourm:; jtmr %tCit u* r.^^vsr^s^w^x 
from ms aea. Claries W-ils IivT:u ^ ;?<^ ^H$. k^ •^^^^►•iii^V 
facuL at die ^emus li lis voucx. i>uC: vii«M i^ -'>?^ -x*^' tiv\#v 

fcngdu Lr what mscr be cxile*i :hc ,\;t^?*^•Hc^>^«bv >N^<^ x^ 
apfaonstc rrotiu Siakscear::. 5iak^> 4iKi ^'^Q^iJk .¥V^ k^^v 
aknx. aar csald jott irurtfi coet b^ atrftitt^ :«- ,ii>?*,HUvv*^> **> <^V 
same aannecfoiu taco^ti 5x>int tbc< :>thjA<siN*L^{<4^t yvKiK nS 
view aLoce the * marveHcus,.*" Duiy» itttiuctili^tJRs v.'tkU^iH^H* v^k^x^ 
abo be ixiCLudeil It oxjlv be tK>C^ tlU5 \\^lK>i .K^*^*4- 
aWc prose 55/rax dr/:jr A'irsi/*' v^^"-^ ^^^" ^^"^ ^^"^ ^^''^ 
repufatshecL 

A very singular example of tlie cKv«^ Atts> i^HNs^t xI^j^nNjW 
resemblance to Blake's poetn* nwy btf «Kt v^ ixh k^t \^^l> v^*V^ 
camld meet with it) in a phanta^utwl *v^*t v^ btt^v^ bss^v 
published, or perhaps not publi^cvl but vmUy |mu\U\1 *nvi^v^ 
years since, and entitled, /«n5^ntiAi/i!v>^>3f </ f^' \'>^^' W 
bears no author s name, but wu.^ written by l^v^ .1 .1 \U^I^ 
Wilkinson, the highly gifted cvUtv^r of Sw^sIouIk^u * W^^^^^^^N 
and author of a Life of him : to whom, ttJ* hrt^ b^HM^ W\s^\^ 
mentioned, we owe a reprint of the juH^mM U\ UI<iKv**» A»'Hv*^ ♦*^ 
Innocence and Experience. These impr\»vU«UloMi |M\Ov*i ^^^ 
be written under precisely the same kiiul o( «ptiitUfU WMi*ltM^v**i 
amounting to abnegation of personal riVorl In tho wUU'i, \\\\y\\\ 
Blake supposed to have presided over tlip phMlur1l»»n mI \\\^ 
Jerusalem, &c. The little book hiiM p«Mril Intii Ou» UMlUMrtl 
(and in all other cases richly-deHrrvr<l) llmlm til IIim mmmI»»m« 
'spiritualist' muse. It is a very thick llltin liunk, Mmw^vm* 
unsubstantial its origin; and containw, tttiild mmm h IIimI I* 
disjointed or hopelessly obfjcurc fbut then why li*« Om' pMhnh»«» 



428 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

of poems for which a ghost, and not even your own ghost, 
is alone responsible ?) many passages and indeed whole com- 
positions of a remote and charming beauty, or sometimes of 
a grotesque figurative relation to things of another sphere, 
which are startlingly akin to Blake's writings, could pass, in 
fact, for no one's but his. Professing as they do the same 
new kind of authorship, they might afford plenty of material 
for comparison and bewildered speculation, if such were in 
any request. 

Considering the interval of seventeen years which has now 
elapsed since the first publication of this LifCy it may be well 
to refer briefly to such studies connected with Blake as have 
since appeared. This is not the place where any attempt 
could be made to appraise the thanks due for such a work as 
Mr. Swinburne's Critical Essay on Blake. The task chiefly 
undertaken in it — that of exploring and expounding the 
system of thought and personal mythology which pervades 
Blake's * Prophetic Books * has been fulfilled, not by piecework 
or analysis, but by creative intuition. The fiat of Form and 
Light has gone forth, and as far as such a chaos could respond 
it has responded. To the volume itself, and to that only, 
can any reader be referred for its store of intellectual wealth 
and reach of eloquent dominion. Next among Blake-labours 
of love let me here refer to Mr. James Smetham's deeply sym- 
pathetic and assimilative study (in the form of a review article 
on the present Life) published in the London Quarterly Review 
for Jan. 1869. As this article is reprinted in our present 
Vol. II., no further tribute to its delicacy and force needs to be 
made here : it speaks for itself. But some personal mention, 
however slight, should here exist as due to its author, a painter 
and designer of our own day who is, in many signal respects, 
very closely akin to Blake ; more so, probably, than any other 
living artist could be said to be. James Smetham's work 
— generally of small or moderate size — ranges from Gospel 
subjects, of the subtlest imaginative and mental insight, and 



sometirDcs 21 tait ^rzsd-s: cjibor^, lbrc.i^^ Oii Tcscxirvrf^ 
compoKtSoos Slid ii:: :m ^i i poebc 22kd paiCocxI tbc«i«i c^f^txwc 
kind, to a spccLml Essi^rsrrr? iara oif IjLiii^cxp^. I:a a3 
these he panzkes gr-aily c*f Elake s r-rr^edia^? :s;p£nt. b«Nr^ 
also oftes iscarly zZxd bv laadscar* imtcBsatx- tv> SU;C!))irt 
Pahner, — ia fr?-.rUL the r>:>i>'xe disdo> 01 Blabr. M r S::>ctHArA'^ 
works are v^ry n;;ii:erv>a5L azKl as ochcr cxc2uic\>? thi:^^ hjiw 
come to be, •ill s:>zic day be knomn in a m-iie divic. SjvKf 
is altogether Traar.ny to make XDore than this poi^sin^: nxHAtiv^ 
here of them and of their producer, who shan»s in A nMiurt5> 
able manner, Blake's mental beauties and his fvutn4t«\>c sh\^r^^ 
comings, and possesses besides an indi>ndual in\Yi)tk^n >^hich 
often claims equality with the great exceptional nu^ltr 
himself. 

Mr. \V. B. Scott's two >'aluable contributions to UUkc 
records — ^his Catalogue Raisonne of the Exkihttu^n s\f AV^ivV 
Works, as held at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in u^;<\ 
and his Etchings from Blake s Works, icith l\scrif^H>f l\'\t^ ■- 
are both duly specified in the General Catalogues existing in 
our Vol. II. We will say briefly here that no mun living hrtu 
a better right to write of Blake or to cngraw his work \\\wk 
Mr. Scott, whose work of both kinds is now too well known 
to call for recognition. Last but not least, the richly con- 
densed and representative essay prefi.xed by Mr, \V, M. 
Rossetti to his edition (in the Aldinc scries) of lUake*« JWfhii/ 
Works, demands from all sides — as its writer has, Uv\\\ nil 
sides, discerned and declared Blake— the hi^ljeHt coninirndtt- 
tion we can here briefly ofl^cr. 

The reader has now reached the threshold of the? Se«:iind 
Volume of this work, in which he will be fortunate* rnoimli 
to be communicating directly with Blake's own ml ml, III 
a series of writings in prose and verse, many of llu*Ml 
here first published. Now, perhaps, no poet rvrf MiMtli*il 
a public with more apparent need for mttuc sfitoolliliit$ of 
the way, or mild forewarning, from within, from wiIIm/iiI, or 



430 LIFE OF WILLIAM BLAKE. 

indeed from any region whence a helping heaven and four 
bountiful winds might be pleased to waft it, than does Blake 
in many of the * emanations * contained in this our Second 
Volume. Yet, on the other hand, there is the plain truth 
that such aid will be not at all needed by those whom these 
writings zc/i7/ impress, and almost certainly lost upon those whom 
they will not. On the whole, I have thought it best to preface / 
each class of these Selections with a few short remarks, but 
neither to encumber with many words their sure effect in the 
right circles, nor to do battle with their destiny in the wrong. 
Only it may be specified here, that whenever any pieces occur- 
ring in Blake's written note-books appeared of a nature on the 
privacy of which he might have relied in writing them, these 
have been passed by, in the task of selection. At the same 
time, all has been included which seemed capable in any 
way of extending our knowledge of Blake as a poet and 
writer, in the manner he himself might have wished. Mere 
obscurity or remoteness from usual ways of thought were, as 
we know, no bar to publication with him ; therefore, in all 
cases where such qualities, even seeming to myself excessive, 
are found in conjunction with the lyrical power and beauty 
of expression so peculiar to Blake's style as a poet ("and this, 
let us not forget, startlingly in advance of the time at which 
he wrote), I have thought it better to include the compositions 
so qualified. On the other hand, my MS. researches have 
often furnished me with poems which I treasure most highly, 
and which I cannot doubt will dwell in many memories as 
they do in mine. But, as regards the varying claims of these 
selections, it should be borne in mind that an attempt is 
made in the present volume to produce, after a long period of 
neglect, as complete a record as might be of Blake and his 
works ; and that, while any who can here find anything to 
love will be the poet-painter's welcome guests, still such a 
feast is spread first of all for those who can know at a glance 
that it is theirs and was meant for them ; who can meet their 



SUPPLEMENTARY. 4v>^ 

host*s eye with sympathy and recognition, evew xih^^^it iKr 
offers them the new, strange fruits grown iW hiuvOt il^ 
far-off gardens where he has dwelt alone, or jnnu^ii nnc 5is*tW: 
the wines which he has learned to love, in Uu^U »»i5C*;v^ 
they never travelled. 




END OF VOL. L 



K. CiAY, Sons am) Tavlok, 

Iti.rAU srhEKT HILL. 



.«,■»■ 




WILLIAM BLAKE. Hjf 



In reading just now a bf>ok which once »:»i --» i 
me nuiso in the worlil, I have come ftct^o^il^ 



some 




known that the writer of the diary was L-?i^"i "*" 
Charlotte Bury. As the [uissage rcgartl i :^ r* ^ 
Blake, which occui-s in vi>l. iii. j>i). ^0, oCr ^-5. ^ 
appeal's to nie to be of no small hitercst, I oij^ ^"" » 
it for reproduction in the Atheiumm : — ^^x* 

year]. 

means. 

Diary 

bereil . . ^ 

nexion with ix)rtl Ilyron].* fc>ho had collectei. ^ **^ 
B'ranffe party of artist's an (1 literati, and one or t xv- '^ 
fine folks, who were very ill assorted M'ith the 1-^^ ^^^ 
of the company, and appeared neither to give »j^^^ 
receive pleasure from the society among whom tl ^ -^* ** 
were mmgled. SirT. Lawrence, next wliom I ^^-^-^^ 
at dinnpr. if* ns cnurtlv as pvor KpruIpa Sip -W^r- *(: 




follow the art for its own sweet sake, and derive tl^ 



^:> 




wlifro the mind is most powerful. Mr. Blake (^ ^ ^ 
prars unlearned in nil that concerns this world, Ut ^ 7 
from what he >aid I should fear he was one of th^^ ^** 
wh«»se feelings are far suiKjrior to his situatiou j^'^ 
lift'. He looks careworn and subdued; but 1^*'^ 
countenance radiated as he spoke of his favoin-j '5* 
p'jrsuit, and he np|)earcd f:ratitied by talking to "^ 
]ter.'^n who comprehended his feelings. I can ca^i | '^ 
Uii.igino that he seldom meets with any one \\|j-^' 
»/MP*r3 into his views— for they are peculiar, aj^i? 
■w.ilted above the common level of receiv^ y 
<']iMiions. I could not help contrasting thishuiiO,| ^ 
.^uist with the great and powerful Sir Thomas I^^^.*^ 
:viice,ond thinking that the one was fully, if tj^^l 
!ii>irt\ worthy of the distinction and the fauie (^ 
^Miich the other has attained, but fnjni which ?u: |^ 
I f.i: removed. Mr. Blake, however, though he nin.? 
' ln\ea8much right, from talent and merit, to ij,*^^ 
, Ml vantages of which ^ir Thomas is possessed, eyj- 
!• r tly lacks that worldly wisdom and that grace ^f 
;>.- inner which make a man gain an eminence in lij^ 
I i'lnfession, and succeed in society. Kvery word Ij^ 
I iiLf-.'red spoke the perfect siniphcity of his mii],y 
I ; lid his total ignorance of all worldly matters. Uj 

■ t. id me that Lady C L had been very kinti 

*■• him. ' Ah ! 'said he, 'there is a deal of kindDees^i 



:[t 



that ladv.* I agreed with him ; and, though i^ 



' w.ii impossible not to laugh at the bt range man 



111 f i»unt<'iiii I'ourt, StmmL »Su' Ihuiiins Lmw\ 
reiice, it iniiy be n-ineiiibcivd, l)ccaiiie the ]}ur- '. 
chiisur of one of lilake's water coltnirs of the ! 
* Vittion f»f Queen Katlierine,' and no doubt of 
some i»ther works of Iiis. l 

W. M. Rt»SSETTI. 



PROF. KOSSI. 

(inin^lKtrollKh, March IM. lr(9I. 

Prof. AdamoKohsi, wh<i once filled theCIudr 
of Latin and Italian at the rnivei-sity of 
IVrugia, and was formerly chief lilymrian &nd 
archivist of that city, died on the 22nd ult. in 
hifi sevontieth year. 

In knowledge of the ancient and medi:Q\iil 
hi^toiy of the i)r<»vince of I'mbria, and of its 
])ainti>rs and celebritieH, ho leavefl no sac- 
ceH.sorof ecpial adilire to carry forwanl the Uirch 
of ieaniin^r he K(» Hinlulously kept alight. He 
was the Kupreme autluirity on all 1<k\i1 tradi- 
ti(»n8 for .students far and ne^ir, and ever since 
he wa8 stricken by |>Jin\lysiK in 1887 ccmtinned 
the central figure of the literary and aitistic sot 
in IVrugia. 

My actiuainUmce with him began in 1884 when 
in Kearch of information concerning the * Ma- 
donna dei AuKidei/ now in our National (lallery. 
He was then l>usy in collecting a store of 
material to add to what is known of Rjiphaers 
early connexion with Perugia. Let us hope 
the unpubliKhed data of which he then s|jokc 
to me fonn pai*t of the valuable collection of 
his books and MiSS. the nmnicipality are now | 
in treaty for. 

His ch)se familiarity with every period and 
event of the chctiuered existence of '* August" 
Perugia rendered him impatient of the slightest 
divei'gence from the authentic reeoixls of which 
he was the keeper ; and his paheographic skill 
gave him vast superit»rity over all less able in- 
vestigators. He contributed largely to many of 
the leading learned periodicjils of Italy, and was 
himself the editor of more than one devoted to 
his favourite studies. 

In 188o a lameut^ible incident closed his 
career as City Librarian and depiivcd him of 
all his public otKcial ]»ositioiis. He was ad- 
judgeil to be ri'sponsible for the loss <»r theft of 
the priceless co}>y of Cicero belonging to the 
City Libniry under his chai"ge, and mulcted in 
a heavy tine. Hroken- hearted, tlie old professor 
waseom})elled for a bare livelihocKl to accef)ttlie 
l^ost of schoolmaster in the town of lievagna, 
near Foliguo. I met him there by chance in 
1880 as I was strolling through the streets 
deploring the devast^ition of buildings and 
churches, now in ruinous condition. Its town 
hall is turned into a tlieatre and depot of iron 
beilsteads. Soon after a Oouil of Ap{>eal 
(quashed tlie initjuitous sentence, and he re- 
turned to Perugia, (hief did the rest. He 
lingered t\\\ tv luowUx ».\j,o^ always retjiining his 
exact memoT^ , \>\\\. \\\^ VA>j >;?va ^ >;TVitV , 

the txMv^tvoTi oi «^ ivi^? Xwwi^ \v<i N^\vi\.^ \b& 



/ 



/ 



/